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This question already has an answer here:

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.

Some background, our reasons for doing this and a link to the draft (Google Docs | GitHub) can be found below. We'd like your feedback by July 11, 2018.

In the beginning, there was 'Be nice'.

From the earliest web archive snapshot of http://stackoverflow.com/faq (circa September, 2008):

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.

We'd very much appreciate your time in taking a moment to read our draft (Google Docs | GitHub). If you have some cycles to spare, we're specifically seeking the following types of feedback:

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

In closing

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!

marked as duplicate by Tim Post discussion Jul 19 '18 at 16:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    There's an old saying, "Children don't hear anything you say, but they see everything you do." Mission statements fall into the "anything you say" category, and they're not really directed outwardly. I've seen so many organizations agonize over mission statements without considering that nobody outside the organization cares about, heeds, or even bothers to read them. – Robusto Jul 19 '18 at 12:51
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    Curious: if you wanted answers by July 11, why is this just now being featured in the "FEATURED ON META" block of SE sites? – GalacticCowboy Jul 19 '18 at 14:10
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    @GalacticCowboy It has been featured since July 3 ... I saw it the next day on the handful of sites I regularly check on - can you tell me where you didn't notice it until now? That's .. definitely a bug .. if so. If you look at the views over the short time this has been posted, word really got out. Kinda baffled as to why you didn't see it. – Tim Post Jul 19 '18 at 14:21
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    Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I've been on Stack Overflow and a variety of the hot questions pretty regularly. – GalacticCowboy Jul 19 '18 at 14:25

111 Answers 111

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I like everything, especially the examples. I like the examples so much, I think there should be more of them, and I think a few examples added to the FAQ TL;DR would be helpful.

The reason why I like the examples is because they solidify aspects of the CoC that would otherwise be broadly interpreted. Calling out specific language as being not what we want here could lead some to think that anything not called out is appropriate, but I doubt that. On the other hand, specifically mentioning "you could Google that in 5 seconds" (which seems blatantly rude, even though I'm sure many would argue it's not) goes a long way in clarifying what is covered in the CoC.

0

From the code:

If someone points out that your behavior is making others uncomfortable, stop doing it. Sometimes, people unconsciously say things that negatively affect others. Even if this wasn’t your intent, apologize and move on.

Where is the use of the chat rooms in the code of conduct segment cited above?

Using comments to point out someone's behaviour publicly, if they have been a member for a while, and screwed up on something site related, isn't always the best way to deal with a problem. A quiet word (or a shout, depending on the behaviour) from a moderator or more experienced user on a private basis could be more effective at getting a valid point across.

  • "You could Google this in 5 seconds" is an opinion, not a statement of fact. Agree that Code of Conduct should clarify use of comments vs. chat to correct bad behavior. Usually people don't bother, because it is much easier to downvote. – dmi3kno Jul 3 '18 at 17:34
  • @dmi3kno yes I stand corrected, thanks – StudyStudy Jul 3 '18 at 17:35
  • And see @countto10, even though you have edited your post after the comment, downvotes stick. It might be intended behavior, but I find it devastating for newcomers – dmi3kno Jul 3 '18 at 17:38
  • @dmi3kno it might depend on the site, on PhysicsSE if you take things too personally or can't move on, you are bound to be upset eventually :) – StudyStudy Jul 3 '18 at 17:42
  • I can't work out what this answer is about. Is it one point or two? If it's two, what part of the CoC does the second one address? If it's one, I assume that the connection is that you're saying that people should use chat rooms rather than comments to suggest that people change their behaviour, but it would still be clearer if you quoted the part of the CoC that it addresses. – Peter Taylor Jul 4 '18 at 17:10
  • @PeterTaylor thanks Peter, I followed your advice, it's just one particular point. – StudyStudy Jul 4 '18 at 20:19
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I take the warning about there being MANY answers to this already to heart .. but I feel my summary of issues is of value: You do not need a mission statement .. the goal of stackoverflow is to provide answers to questions. Some will be from experts, others not, but you are taking advantage of the Delphi effect in the medium of the internet .. but there is no "mission”, just a service .. a very worthwhile one with a laudable motive, that of knowledge sharing .. so please keep it simpler, brilliant people

2 These guidelines are not for the well behaved .. they might possibly serve as a deterent by warning trolls they will not be tolerated, but probably not as it is unlikely that trolls will read them, and less that they will be detered. So .. guidelines are not needed by the sensible and honest contributors .. and not a deterent .. so suggest to beef up the “Be Nice” guideline to something like “Be Nice, Or Else” where the guidlines rough out the sorts of behaviour that will not be tolerated, and what will be done about it.

So .. keep it as simple as possible by not bothering to instruct the ones already behaving nicely as they make their contribution. You only need something to point to when someone tries to make a stink about having been banned .. along the lines of “You contravened that guidline so we bounced you” is all you need

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While the CoC is centered on observable behaviors it should make more emphasis on the importance of voting on the Stack Exchange Network model as it is explained on Vote Early, Vote Often

Maybe saying something like

  • Be friendly by voting early and often

  • The Community shows its friendliness by voting early and often

regarding reactions to votes

  • It's fine to show that you disagree with the votes received by your own post or on posts from others but show it without using sarcasm and irony as it could be to hard to say if it was said using a friendly tone or it's an abusive behaviour.
  • 1
    Here is the early version in Spanish of the above. – Rubén Jul 11 '18 at 15:46
  • Voting often should not be part of the CoC. You should vote when you are capable of judging the content. Good content -> vote up. Bad content -> vote down. Unable to judge? Don't vote. – S.L. Barth Jul 17 '18 at 9:07
  • @S.L.Barth The main idea is that the CoC, IMHO, should do more emphasis on the importance of voting. I think that you agree on that part. Do you? – Rubén Jul 17 '18 at 15:50
  • We disagree on this one. If the CoC emphazises the importance of voting, then people can be called out for "not voting enough". But, if we cannot judge a post, we should not vote on it. I don't think people should feel coerced to vote - and that is what I believe will happen, if the importance of voting is part of the CoC. – S.L. Barth Jul 17 '18 at 20:00
  • I agree with you that we should not be coerced to vote +1/-1 but that doesn't make the voting less important actually deciding to not vote (abstain to vote or "skip" as is called on the review queues ) should be made because the importance of voting and we never should vote just because we gained that privilege . – Rubén Jul 17 '18 at 20:14
-1

...I can support this fully. I've been a (mostly) silent consumer at Stack Overflow for years, as have many of the engineers I talk with in my work. Many are put off immediately by the near-miss on the Be Nice policy.

It will take culture change, as I see from my reading here. Many think the new policy won't work, but I believe the success or failure will come from commitment. If most of the participants, the staff, and volunteers commit to an elevated standard for Be Nice, it will work. That's how communities grow.

I believe in it and I would work for it.

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    The far more likely outcome (in my opinion) is that people will reduce the amount of comments they make and use the niceness-agnostic tools of moderation to clean up instead. So instead of getting 5+ comments telling you why and what's wrong with your question, you might get nothing, -6 + closed and no further actionable feedback. I'm unconvinced that's going to be better then some snarky yet relevant comments. – Magisch Jul 6 '18 at 7:31
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    nice comment @Magisch . maybe you should put something along those lines in your Answer, too. – Patrick Parker Jul 6 '18 at 18:56
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    It is telling that this answer, a model example of someone making an effort to provide constructive feedback in a welcoming tone, has net negative votes. Yet I agree that snarky+relevant is better than silent downvote. Maybe SO should consider two forms of reputation: competency ("does that person know what they are talking about") and community ("is that a person who I want to be in the same community as"). while that's outside of the scope of a CoC, imho without a structural change to accompany the words in the CoC, this cultural change will not happen. – user9399 Jul 8 '18 at 1:26
-2

For the most part, the new CoC looks OK as of posting this. However, there are a few points to consider:

  • While the CoC is supposed to address Stack Exchange as a whole, it refers to Stack Overflow instead of SE at a few points. Those points are generally true for the entire network, not just SO.
  • Content like "Good grief, people voted this question up?" or "This is obvious, just Google it." aren't subtle put-downs, they're very clear and obvious ones. The suggested typical action is content deletion, which I also disagree with; such content is simply rude, and should be handled with account suspension. Of course, that's only my humble opinion. ;-)
  • Voting isn't the only way sock puppets can be used to abuse the system. Another example is ban evasion, possibly through a VPN so that the banned account's IP address isn't visible on it (mods only). I suggest changing the text to cover all cases of using sock puppets to do something in bad faith you can't with only one account, for example:

    Using "sock puppets" to act in bad faith or abuse the system.

  • 4
    Note that the sockpuppet voting item is not meant to be part of an exhaustive list of offenses; using sockpuppets to troll, circumvent restrictions, etc. are also problematic, but so is, uh, sexual content not aimed at a specific person - the disruptive behavior item at the end is kind of a catch-all. – Shog9 Jul 3 '18 at 19:07
  • @Shog9 And neither did I suggest that. ;) I mean changing the text to something like Using "sock puppets" to act in bad faith or to abuse the system, in ways not possible with only one account. – EKons Jul 3 '18 at 19:08
  • The question asked for good faith responses. This looks like a good faith response. How can anyone vote it down? – Itsme2003 Jul 8 '18 at 15:28
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    @Itsme2003 If they disagree, they vote it down. Simple. – EKons Jul 8 '18 at 15:57
-2

A code of conduct is an OK thing. Making it easy for people to do the right thing is a BETTER thing. My suggestion would be to come up with appropriately worded comments for common issues (with links to how-to-ask etc as relevant) and then put a row of buttons up above the dialog box when somebody clicks "add a comment".

[no homework] [no recommend] [no effort]    ...    [no blah]
[ the comment dialog box is located here                   ]
[                                                          ]

then when somebody clicks one of them, the nice, helpful text is copied into the dialog box. Simple, quick, easy, and a good comment.

  • 4
    -1; I would always prefer to receive criticism that a real human being has actually written - even if its clumsy and rudely-expressed - than a generic autocomment. That's even leaving aside that these autocomments will inevitably get used inappropriately. – Mark Amery Jul 4 '18 at 12:40
  • There is also the issue of just how far SE can restrain its users. The more controlled everything is, the more creativity and usability are harmed. – hat Jul 4 '18 at 16:08
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    I would prefer that people spent their limited time and energy answer good questions, rather than clumsily reinventing ways to say "this is not a homework service". And, you will note this is what happens with flagging. And I will allow that maybe what we just need is more specific flagging texts to choose from. – John Hascall Jul 4 '18 at 16:54
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    I think there's a Stack App for that: AutoReviewComments - Pro-forma comments for SE – jkdev Jul 5 '18 at 0:28
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    @jkdev That's pretty cool (for the 3 people who know about it) – John Hascall Jul 6 '18 at 22:08
  • Maybe the app needs to be publicized more. There are some standard canned comments in review queues, but I think those are sort of sterile and not so welcoming, and they can’t be customized. – jkdev Jul 6 '18 at 22:16
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    I would say that automated comments to appear when certain close votes or flags are made would be useful, however. – The Great Duck Jul 7 '18 at 17:42
-2

Keep it Simply Stupid and:

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    @NathanTuggy Sorry, but I don't see any rejection: 144 upvotes for using simpler language and 53 upvotes for the highest upvoted answer not to. In my book that's an approval to use simpler language... – Fabby Jul 5 '18 at 22:15
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    @Fabby that's 144 votes to discuss the idea and 53 votes on our reason for not doing that. The actual margin of difference is 7 votes (~14% difference), when compared to the 46 vote answer in favor of the idea. – the dark wanderer Jul 7 '18 at 19:43
-3

Now I will first preface this with a simple statement of that I did not read the entire code of conduct. This is more of a response to the general impression I'm gathering right now. Everyone seems to think the following.

Banning rudeness means banning criticism and punishment and anything someone claims to be rude even if it isn't.

That might be true, but I think the problem with that entire mentality is that Stack Exchange is not an idiot. These guidelines are not a source code to be plugged into some automated robot that is going to follow them to such precision as to allow rules lawyers. Furthermore, I think it is worth noting who actually uses these COC. Moderators, staff, and users are who are bound by these. Changing the COC only matters if the moderators actually change how they behave. Obviously they will attempt to follow these COC, but they aren't going to just ban anyone who happens to incite a report from a user or happens to inadvertently make someone feel unwelcome with a downvote.

The point of the rules about be nicer to new people and try to be welcoming is to avoid the opposite behavior where moderators and users downvote posts or have them closed simply because they are new. Discrimination can include which posts you answer. Of course it can, but nobody is going to punish you for refusing to post on some user's questions because of discriminatory reasons. First of all, you are free to choose to avoid interacting with just about any user you please on this site (except users who help moderate the site). I doubt that SE is going to make a "quota" whereby if your responses are more racially biased or gender biased that you get a ban. It would be pointless. The purpose of such rules it for people to be aware that targeting users with rude comments and whatnot because of race or other reasons is not allowed as well as posting broad hateful remarks about race. I know I'm being specific with "race" but this goes with any discrimination. Unless of course the context actually warrants such comments such as discussing a story on Worldbuilding involving discrimination. We shouldn't be censoring just to avoid people seeing such things. Unless it's getting above a general content age restriction that SE wants to have as an unspoken rule, we shouldn't expect them to outright censor nor should we.

Now I know I haven't really read the entire codes of conduct yet as I was mostly reading through these posts, but I mostly wanted to point out that the purpose of this COC document is to serve as a general guideline for moderators to use when deciding what should and shouldn't be allowed. I imagine the COC say this but if not then this is by far the most important thing to keep in mind here.

Stack Exchange and the moderators at Stack Exchange ultimately reserve the right to discretion when deciding what conduct is and isn't allowed this document does not take away any of Stack Exchange's power to have the final decision on what is allowed on this site.

Basically this means that SE can ban someone for a reason not in that list and SE doesn't have to ban/punish someone for reasons in that list unless actual laws force them to remove certain content (such as someone purposefully attempting to physically harm someone by finding their address or engaging in illegal activities).

Now this isn't to say that SE might not have certain opinions on things (such as treating newer users nicer than veteran users). I just mean to say that SE definitely understands that downvotes and comments asking for clarification and whatnot aren't rude or should be outright banned for making people uncomfortable. I think it is just worth saying that they are not idiots and we can expect that they have enough common sense to know those things are vital to the sites existence and identity. When they make these policies they are mostly referring to how users interact outside of basic question criticism bantering.Clarification for users who might misinterpret is great, but I think there are a few people here overreacting and thinking this will result in the site starting to ban people for no reason.

  • 6
    Maybe I'm steamrolling over nuances that you'll think are important, but it seems to me that this answer boils down to "what's actually written in the rules ultimately doesn't matter, because we can trust the enforcers of those rules to use common sense". That may even be true - we have a lot of thoughtful, articulate mods and staff who handle case-by-case moderation intelligently, fairly, and transparently. But if your best possible defense of a rule change is that it'll be ignored, then it seems like it's still a bad rule change, or at best a pointless waste of time. – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 9:55
  • @MarkAmery no what I mean to say is that people are taking the rules change to mean something too literal then it should or does mean. For instance people think that a rule about not talking about things that make people uncomfortable means that any random person can just declare that and end any conversation whenever they please. In practice, that will never happen. They also aren't going to ban people just for giving criticism. It would break the site. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 13:33
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    The primary concern I've seen here is that trolls will use the rules to abuse the site, and I just don't see how that could possible occur. Ultimately if a person starts declaring C code to be offensive to them or uncomfortable to end every conversation and shut down the chats whenever they please, a mod is just going to tell them to get out because if the very basic subject material that this site discusses makes you uncomfortable or is offensive to you then you really shouldn't be on here in the first place. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 13:37
  • But "if a person starts declaring [things to be] uncomfortable to end every conversation and shut down the chats whenever they please, a mod is just going to tell them to get out" sounds precisely like the rule being ignored, to me. What's the common-sense, non-insane interpretation of the rule that differs from how people would've just naturally behaved under the old Be Nice standard? If there is one, then it could do with clarifying. If there isn't - if the literal meaning is crazy and the intended meaning is to do exactly what we would've without this rule - then why have the rule? – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 17:17
  • @MarkAmery the purpose was to elaborate the notion of being nice and to give a rule that applies when good faith is intended. If a user truly is made uncomfortable by inappropriate discussion or harassment then that rule applies. If the user is simply walking into a chat, declaring they are made uncomfortable and then immediately leaving then common sense would dictate that the rule doesn't apply. Surely the rule of "don't spam" comes into effect when a person declares 5 subjects in a row that people start discussing to be uncomfortable for no reason. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:20
  • The rule is to not discuss things that make people uncomfortable, not to stop discussing something simply because someone claims it to be uncomfortable. "Be nice." is a vague phrase. Saying, "don't discuss things that make users uncomfortable" is an elaboration of that. Taking it to the logical extreme is just being a rules lawyer and nobody in their right mind should accept deliberate rules lawyering to intentionally cause harm to a community. Of course, what I say here can always be used to revise the rules. I'm merely saying that I feel it isn't as large of a problem as some claim. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:23
  • Wait, is your common-sense interpretation that any conversation that genuinely does make someone uncomfortable should be ended, and that the only time we should ignore the rule is if somebody is being clearly dishonest? Because that's still a terrible standard. For one thing, plenty of valuable conversations that matter are liable to make people uncomfortable, including this one. For another, it means that to justify carrying on a conversation you care about and think should continue after somebody else demands it be censored, you're required to accuse them of lying about their feelings. – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 17:30
  • @MarkAmery That is indeed my standpoint, but I would say to some extent that the rule more involves the chat system in the upper right corner of every page (where it is nigh impossible to escape an uncomfortable subject in your primary SE subsite) than it does chats like this were a user coming into the thread doesn't have as much reason to be in the thread in the first place to be claiming it excludes them be making them uncomfortable. But yeah my general opinion is that aside from chatting that must occur for the site to function the rule should apply when genuinely involved. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:36
  • @MarkAmery "For another, it means that to justify carrying on a conversation you care about and think should continue after somebody else demands it be censored, you're required to accuse them of lying about their feelings." I'm primarily referring to absurd examples such as a user claiming that "Integration makes me uncomfortable, don't ever discuss calculus" in the math stack exchange chat isn't going to ever be enforced or taken seriously. If such a person truly exists then they wouldn't be in the chat to begin with. Trolls are not that hard to sniff out. The few that do abuse it... – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:38
  • ...aren't going to cause that much trouble because chances are the conversation was already on a subject that could be taken as offensive to begin with. So a troll claiming they were bothered isn't any more likely than a normal user claiming to be bothered. It's the cases where there is absolutely no way it could bother someone (such as discussing how to answer an on-topic question) that I think people are concerned about getting shut down. That wouldn't happen. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:40
  • I should note that a person habitually and politely claiming that the same subject bothers them when people bring it up is probably legitimate, but a person coming along every 2 hours and saying that some 10 different subjects of conversations offend them and then immediately leaving for another 2 hours is either an indication of a systemic issue far beyond just the chat accidentally offending them (i.e. the chat is harassing them) or they're making it up. Those would be situations where a mod should clearly step in and discern whether the user is lying or not. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 17:44
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    Some examples of topics that are genuinely likely to make some readers uncomfortable and which are relevant on either Stack Overflow or its Meta: tradeoffs between making software accessible for the disabled some other objective; data formats that include a two-option gender field; code that openly violates licenses or Terms of Service; criticizing an answer for being hard to understand due to poor English; how Stack Overflow should handle censorship laws of countries that may nationally block Stack Overflow if we don't comply; and literally any Meta discussion about the Code of Conduct. – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 18:22
  • 1
    Fair point. I hail from MSE. Pure math is pretty hard to shoehorn into making offensive. I forget how big this site is external to that at times. To that I concede. Hopefully this thread of discussion serves as good back-and-forth for the people at SE to use when balancing out their delicate wordplay. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 18:24
  • Per the standard you articulated before, it seems like we should just never discuss any of the topics I just listed. Yet here we are discussing one, on a question where I think it's clear plenty of participants are at least "uncomfortable" (and where a handful could perhaps be described with stronger language!), so I figure that's not actually how you think things should work. And if somebody were to come along and complain about a conversation on one of those topics making them uncomfortable, I at least certainly don't think that should be grounds for shutting the conversation down. – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 18:26
  • @MarkAmery I was partially thinking I guess unconsciously that the rule should apply to people coming into a conversation in a place it is otherwise impossible to just avoid. I.e. comments on a post someone made should be courteous to them in what is uncomfortable whereas posts in a question or answer should only be shut down if it is actually off topic because the user is coming into the conversation and therefore has no right to complain. On the other hand, the official site wide chats should be open to everyone. So I was primarily taking this as a rule for the site-wide chat system. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 18:29
-7

The biggest problem is not the code itself, but rather, the lack of its fair or accessible enforcement. In my experience, while most moderators do not violate, the worst violators are moderators, who are beyond reproach for us little people and who can impose their subjective opinions with little or no oversight or recourse (or at least none that is available in a practical sense).

Just to clarify, I am using the term "moderator" to refer generally to users who have elevated privileges to do things like mark questions as dupes, close/mark as off-topic, and by "worst violators", I am referring to behavior that is mild compared to some of the CoC examples. SO seems to already do a fine job of eliminating anything really bad-- I certainly have never seen any behavior like that described in the CoC examples (well maybe a "just google it" from time to time, but not the others).

So, "worst" for me is very mild on an absolute basis, and generally falls into the category of what I would say varies between offputting, rude and/or condescending behavior.

I suppose that is a good thing-- the really egregious stuff has literally never made it into my SO experience.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what a CoC re-write accomplishes if it does not raise the bar, and I do not see this new CoC raises the bar, and in my opinion, the "bar" is currently at a pretty decent place, but if it is going to be raised, it should start with how moderators interact with plebians.

I can find numerous examples where very different standards are applied to subjectively determine whether questions are off-topic, or dupes, overly broad etc. When these things happen, sometimes, but very rarely, the moderator who made that decision offer some constructive feedback. Instead, the feedback is usually some useless canned reason-- which is all the more frustrating when the canned reason seems to be applied inconsistently depending on which moderator is reviewing a question. Trying to discuss it to the moderator, the feeling I often get back is: you're wrong, I'm right, and even if that's not the case, the lines are too blurry for anyone to overturn my choice. What I am describing is not too different from the typical SO gripes e.g. https://stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/stack-overflow-isnt-very-welcoming-its-time-for-that-to-change/. I just do not see anything in the new CoC that addresses these issues.

Here is the problem: if there is no mechanism to create an incentive for offputting behavior to change, the subtle changes in the language of the CoC that no one ever reads (I admit, being invited by SO to answer this question was the first time I read it and the prior versions) will not be sufficient to drive any change. Change must be driven by more than words on unread pages. In my view, a different enforcement mechanism is needed.

  • 5
    This doesn't seem to be feedback on the Code of Conduct rewrite at all. – Wildcard Jul 6 '18 at 3:48
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    Complaints about moderators can be addressed directly to staff via the "contact us" link on the footer of every site. I imagine if actual misconduct is going on that's going to be stamped out really quickly. – Magisch Jul 6 '18 at 7:33
  • 1
    Just trying to understand here, are you primarily concerned about selective enforcement, as in mods making excuses for toxic behavior to be tolerated, or are you talking about mods taking part in it themselves, or both? I'm all for adding language that Stack Exchange has the responsibility for long-term detection of the former (more systemic) type, but outright violations by mods are immediately actionable by reporting it to us directly (though, arguably, both are, the first can be harder to document and articulate). – Tim Post Jul 6 '18 at 16:42
  • @Wildcard, I will update the response to clarify that I think the new policy does nothing to address the shortcomings of the existing policy, which in my experience is that for the most part, the users I have found to be most rude are the moderators. I'm not saying it's the majority of moderators, but I am saying it's the majority of the bad SO experiences I've had. And I know many who share this opinion (or at least say they do) – user9399 Jul 7 '18 at 2:17
  • @Magisch: the problem is that most of the un-"welcoming" behavior I have witnessed would not be called "actual misconduct". It's not misconduct, but it does make me walk away from the computer saying "I hate SO" until eventually I make my way back to it – user9399 Jul 7 '18 at 2:51
  • @TimPost: I should have been more clear and I have updated my answer try to address your valid question. I am not referring to what would be clearly "toxic" behavior such as is in the CoC examples. Rather, I'm referring to more subtle behavior of the sort described by SO itself as a problem (see link in edited answer). My point is that these CoC changes do nothing to address the condescending culture that is often perpetuated by users in elevated positions. – user9399 Jul 7 '18 at 2:54
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    @user9399 So when you say "moderators" you mean users and not the diamond moderators? Because the terminology probably got lost in translation there then. – Magisch Jul 7 '18 at 6:21
  • @Magisch I am referring to users with special privileges to be allowed to unilaterally do things like close / reopen / mark as dupe etc. I guess they are not the same as diamond moderators but they definitely have special privileges-- whether because of their reputation or something else, I don't know. If there is a better word than "moderators"-- and I hope there is-- please suggest and I will update. – user9399 Jul 8 '18 at 1:16
  • 1
    @user9399: Only diamond moderators can open/close questions at will. Gold-badge holders in a tag have the power to unilaterally close/reopen a question as a duplicate (called "dupehammering"). But other than dupe-hammer powers, regular users have no more control over content moderation than any user with 3000 rep and thus is able to vote to close/reopen. – Nicol Bolas Jul 8 '18 at 22:38
-8

Account suspension criteria:

  • Sexual content directed at another user, e.g. “@cass do you do that with your clothes on or off? ;)”

  • Using “sock puppet” voting to game the reputation system

My observation has been that when people post anonymously, the inclination to engage in inappropriate behavior is likely to increase. While anonymity is important to offer, I really don't understand why would we give some anonymous account a second chance. All they need to do is create yet another anonymous account. Just remove them.

  • 8
    Anonymous accounts have no power to comment. Anonymous accounts can definitely post, but posts that contain that kind of material are dealt with quickly enough that it doesn't matter if they are or are not anonymous. – Makoto Jul 4 '18 at 20:52
  • 1
    The issue is comments like these coming from somewhat established members of the community, not drive-by users. Or drive-by users who have the association bonus so automatically 100+ rep on any site. – doppelgreener Jul 6 '18 at 11:37
  • @Makoto: what do you mean anon accounts can't comment? I can comment and I'm anon. – user1271772 Jul 14 '18 at 3:47
  • @user1271772: Your profile does not have "anonymous" in it. That's what I mean by "anonymous". Otherwise registered accounts can comment when they reach the right rep level. – Makoto Jul 14 '18 at 4:12
  • @Makoto: but isn't OP talking about people like me that don't have their name in their profile> – user1271772 Jul 14 '18 at 4:15
  • @user1271772: I'm talking about people whose real name is not available. – Greg Askew Jul 14 '18 at 15:06
-9

they're trying to make your question helpful to as many people as possible.

This is a huge issue I'm having with the policy that I just can't get past. People come here wanting answers to their questions and then those questions either get changed to be more general and sometimes no longer end up being the question the original poster wanted answered. This doesn't help those people and it doesn't come across as very nice. It can seem like a very bad experience and is likely to turn away some first-time users. I understand wanting an archive of questions that might help everybody, but the asker needs to be the main focus with the benefit of the many being second. The asker's question shouldn't be changed to suit the needs of everybody, it should be edited to make the question clearer to everybody so that the community can help them with the asker's specific problem.

Furthermore, I think that we shouldn't close questions simply for asking "what should I do?" instead of "how do I do this to reach this result?" because not everybody knows what result they want or what the end results of something could potentially be. If they ask "what should I do", they need help figuring out what to do and how to go about it. Demanding they change their question to ask for something they can't give is pointless, frustrating and incredibly rude and is likely to lead to conflict.

My proposed edit to the section mentioned above:

If you're here to help others, be patient and welcoming. Learning how to participate in our community can be daunting, especially if someone is new. Be supportive while others are learning. Don't change the fundamental meaning of a question when editing and put the asker first.

If you're here to get help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you. Try to use good grammar and spelling and make what you're asking clear to others. Our community is made possible by volunteers. Follow our guidelines and don't worry if others suggest changes or edit your question - they're trying to make your question as clear as possible so the community can help you.

  • I agree with your proposed edit, and most of the first paragraph (after I split the paragraphs). However, in my opinion, the now second paragraph should be discussed in a separate question. It seems like you came from Interpersonal Skills, which has an explicit policy against "what should I do" questions. If so, I suggest reading their meta discussions as to why they implemented that policy, and if you disagree with it, start a new discussion there explaining why you think their reasoning is wrong and why they should reverse course. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Jul 5 '18 at 23:07
  • 1
    By the way, fundamentally editing someone's question is an explicit reason for rejecting suggested edits. I'll admit that there isn't very much oversight to binding edits from privileged users; you should do some research and file a request on that. – Sonic the Bracketed Hedgehog Jul 5 '18 at 23:09
  • 8
    "You have it backwards, I think..." – gnat Jul 6 '18 at 1:58
  • 7
    Regarding your second paragraph, questions are closed not mostly because users feel like being jerks, but because they don't believe the site can provide good answers in the state it's in. If the site can't provide good answers the way it's written, and the asker can't write it any other way, well, that's just how it's gonna have to be, isn't it? – Nathan Tuggy Jul 6 '18 at 5:03
-10

Avoid hierarchies

There is a point that is not addressed in the list of behaviors. I have not much time in StackExchange, but in several answers or comments I have seen some insistence on establishing a kind of hierarchy, more than once from the same user, such as:

  • I've been many years more than you in this site
  • As a teacher / professor in this field... and after comes the answer or comment (the worst)

Knowing that not any kind of curriculum or experience is required to participate in the site, this type of comments are also a type of discrimination that does not contribute anything more than the satisfaction of the one who uses them to establish a false virtual hierarchy.

It goes against the base of your mission: to build an inclusive community where all people feel welcome and can participate, regardless of expertise, identity, or language.

I am sure there are more constructive alternatives that don't even condition negatively to the person who has to read them:

  • A few years ago I saw a similar situation to the one you expose
  • In classes we usually apply...
  • Ehhhh, appeal to authority and ego-stroking aren't good, but trying too hard to erase legitimate markers of actual topical expertise is no good either. Some of the best SE answers on a lot of sites are based on the kind of practical, experiential know-how that doesn't really have a tidy citation. If someone has spent twenty years programming Java and knows that you just don't do XYZ, forbidding them from mentioning twenty years of Java is not inclusive: it is anti-expert, in the same trap Wikipedia all too often falls into. ("We don't need experts, we can just read everything ourselves!") – Nathan Tuggy Jul 9 '18 at 7:42
  • I understand, I don't want to eliminate the "presentation card", but, as in everything, the problem comes when it's a vice. If someone has spent 20 years programming Java and uses that as a presentation card, it can be valid once, twice, three times, until it reaches the point that the contribution to the answer stops being valid to intensify the fake hierarchy. Even if someone has 20 years of experience in whatever, it's immediately perceived, no credentials are necessary. Maybe I participate more in a kind of more subjective areas, where experience counts a lot, but titles absolutely nothing – Danielillo Jul 9 '18 at 8:00
  • 3
    FWIW, anyone who begins an answer by talking about how long they've worked in a field or by identifying as a professor is likely to instantly lose credibility with me. (Well, except on the rare occasion where they're directly calling upon their personal observations over the course of their career as a basis for their answer, and those observations couldn't be demonstrated with a code example or cited from a more authoritative source. Examples of such cases are vanishingly rare on Stack Overflow, but probably exist on other sites.) – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 9:11
  • The only times I can recall someone claiming expertise like this (as a preamble to the actual content) is within long comment threads where an argument has broken out. At that point, SO's model has already failed (since we're not a discussion site), so getting rid of it won't help. But yes, if you see this sort of thing in an answer, feel free to cull it. – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 13:47
  • @MarkAmery Citing your qualifications seems more common on stacks like IPS, where there is no standard to reference but the answer-er has personal experience that directly relates to the question. In comments though, it usually is irrelevant to the point. But as a casual observer of ISP and a few other stacks, I don't have solid data to back that. =P – Tezra Jul 9 '18 at 17:28
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    Setting aside whether "regardless of expertise" should be included or not, being a tenured (or not) professor is quite germane on Academia.SE, and similarly having X years of teaching experience is relevant on Math Educators.SE. An admonition against stating one's qualifications doesn't belong in an SE-wide policy. – Jeffrey Bosboom Jul 9 '18 at 19:34
-10

I just read an answer on the question:

Array-syntax vs pointer-syntax and code generation?.

The answer by M.M. is upvoted 12 times but includes the following.

"Pretty tragic that such garbage (...) is still published in this decade."

And

"IMHO the best way to use this book is to burn (...) it or otherwise discard it."

A community with a "Code Of Conduct", any "Code Of Conduct" for that matter does not lower itself to calling things "garbage", instead a long list of intelligent arguments should qualify it as such.

That posts with remarks about book burning are upvoted instead of =massively= downvoted makes me quite pessimistic about any future "Code of Conduct".

My point being that the CoC should include rules to abandon such posts.

  • 7
    Is it unfair to call a book garbage when it is indeed garbage? The community doesn't seem to think so. Would "flat out wrong and dangerous advice" be more amenable? Why? – Magisch Jul 17 '18 at 7:52
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    The use of "lower", "pessimistic", and "abandon" (and perhaps the emphasis in "any Code of Conduct" and "intelligent arguments"), all of which imply value judgements, strikes me as exactly the same rhetorical device the answer being criticized used. Namely, combining concise arguments with punchy, evocative language so that both reason and emotion are stirred up. This answer might ironically be more logically convincing if it followed its own guidelines, for all that it would undoubtedly lose considerable emotional impact. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 17 '18 at 11:38
-11

I took a look at the code of conduct:

Our mission is to build an inclusive community where all people feel welcome and can participate, regardless of expertise, identity, or language. Whether you’ve come to ask questions or to generously share what you know, join us in building a learning community that is rooted in kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect.

That's great.

We commit to enforcing and improving the Code of Conduct. It applies to everyone using the Stack Exchange network, including our team, moderators, and anyone posting to our Q&A site or chat rooms.

That's great too. There's been some issues with the chat flagging system, whereby if you flag bad behaviour people don't like it.

Our Expectations •If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming... •If you’re here to get help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you... •Be friendly, clear, and constructive. Editing, commenting, and sharing feedback are healthy parts of our community. When giving feedback, avoid jokes and sarcasm -- tone is hard to decipher online. Be open to receiving constructive feedback... •If someone points out that your behavior is making others uncomfortable, stop doing it...

Yes, I think this is really good.

Unacceptable Behavior •No subtle put-downs or unwelcoming language... •No name-calling or personal attacks... •No discrimination of any kind...

As above.

•No harassment. This includes, but isn’t limited to: bullying, intimidation, vulgar language...

This is excellent stuff.

Reporting and Enforcement Every person contributes to creating a kind, respectful community. If you find unacceptable behavior directed at yourself or others, you can: •Flag the harmful content... •Address it directly... •Contact us...

Really, what's not to like?

We take your reports seriously... This is how moderators generally handle misconduct... subtle put-down...content deletion... Sexual content...Account suspension... sock puppet... Account suspension... Repetitive disruptive behaviour... Expulsion from Stack Overflow... If you have concerns about how a moderator has handled a situation, contact us directly.

Who can possibly complain about any of this?

We created this Code of Conduct not because we expect misconduct, but because we believe that articulating our values reinforces the high level of respect our community expects from one another. Also, having a code provides us with clear avenues to correct our culture should it stray off-course.

Good stuff.

We welcome your feedback on this and every other aspect of what we do at Stack Overflow. Thank you for working with us to build a kind, collaborative, and respectful learning community.

Yep, that code of conduct is just great. I really like it. I mean that.

But here's the rub: do you intend to live up to it? Your past performance is not encouraging. As far as I know you haven't addressed the chatflag issue, you seem to be content for moderators to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour, or even behave badly themselves, and you dismiss patently legitimate complaints. See for example 201807020711301960. Also note that Shog has a reputation for being unpleasant. There's a gap between what you say and what you do, and I think it's something of an issue. Yes, my experience is limited, in that I only frequent a few stacks, but I look at past contributors and current contributors, and I think this issue is driving good contributors away. Unless you live up to your side of the bargain, I think you're going to be left with a gamester cabal who resent both expert newcomers and inexperienced newcomers. You'll also be left with a bad reputation and a company that's worth much less than it could be.

  • 19
    This seems less like feedback, and more like a sideways rant about your own experiences with SE. If you want to make a point, I'd suggest making it without the additional accusations. – fbueckert Jul 3 '18 at 19:46
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    @fbueckert : my last paragraph concerning "your side of the bargain" is a crucial point. And please note that phrases like "a sideways rant" are not in line with this code of conduct, or the previous one. – John Duffield Jul 3 '18 at 19:56
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    Your last paragraph is the entire problem. The rest is just piecemeal agreeing with the CoC. Without that, what's left would be dismissed. There are parts I agree with, but it gets buried in among the accusations. If you want your point to stand out, then it would behoove you to make it clearer and more concise. – fbueckert Jul 3 '18 at 20:03
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    I've said my piece, I like the new code of conduct, and that last point is important. – John Duffield Jul 3 '18 at 20:09
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    "Shog has a reputation for being unpleasant" - well, uh, that's news to me. – Mark Amery Jul 4 '18 at 9:56
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    Shog9 has a reputation for telling it "like it is". I find that very refreshing. – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 10:52
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    I'm flagging this post as Rude or Abusive because it is condescending toward Shog, unnecessarily implies that SE is becoming similar to a "gamester cabal", and for overall putting down SE's authorities rather than being welcoming and open toward them. And I, for one, welcome our new overlords. – Robert Columbia Jul 5 '18 at 1:30
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    Shog has a reputation for not beating around the bush and actually telling you what he thinks. I find that to be a great quality. He's also very approachable and willing to discuss things if you don't waste his time on purpose. Also, ironically, witch hunting CMs is one of the things that was always unacceptable. – Magisch Jul 5 '18 at 5:15
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    Shog9 has a reputation for not suffering fools lightly. Fools tend to be unhappy with this. – Ian Kemp Jul 5 '18 at 5:15
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    @Ian Kemp : please note that the old code of conduct is in essence be nice and the new code of conduct is in essence be nicer. And since you have a reputation of 15,392 on stack overflow, I rest my case. – John Duffield Jul 5 '18 at 12:17
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    @Tim Post : IMHO the real issue is that unpleasantness comes from moderators and their high-rep friends, and then SO staff are unwilling to address it because they need their "volunteers". The comments above and the chat here demonstrate this. – John Duffield Jul 7 '18 at 7:24
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    Shog9 is the source of a lot of the problems around here. – user Jul 7 '18 at 22:54
  • 2
    @User : I disagree. He hasn't always been as nice as I'd like, but he isn't "the source of a lot of the problems around here". – John Duffield Jul 8 '18 at 10:56
  • 3
    @JohnDuffield Unfortunately his bad attitude sets the tone that makes all this necessary. – user Jul 8 '18 at 16:08
  • 1
    @IanKemp: You just violated the CoC and the old "be nice policy" by namecalling. People that are unhappy with Shog9's reputation should not be namecalled "fools". – user1271772 Jul 14 '18 at 3:44
-11

First of all, please excuse me for my approximative english.

I know SO since its beginning but I almost never participate on it. At the beginning, I was just not good enough at english-speaking to ask any question. Now, I come on SO only when I think I tryed everything I could and its really my last option, but everytime I dislike being here and actually SO never helped me to find a solution : it looks like what matter in SO is following the rules of SO , helping people seems to be less important than following the rules.

In my opinion, it's insane.

If it works like that, a cheap AI could do the moderator job. Today's AI are polite and explains what they do : don't expect that from the moderators of SO, they are like cheap AI and are only able to follow basic rules without subtlety ; worst of all, they are pride to act like robots

I used to be moderator for 6-7 years on a french-speaking-forum dedicated to Adobe Flash, called Mediabox.

Like SO at the beginning, there was only one rule : be nice.

Of course, this forum never been as big as SO , but for around 5-6 years, we used to have around 50 new questions every day, all about Flash/actionscript1-2-3 , it's not bad I think (don't know how much JS question are created everyday on SO).

On this forum, moderator almost never deleted messages and when they did, they open a subject inside the moderator room in order to discuss about it with other before acting.

If, as a moderator, you don't want to spend your time with that : just don't do anything !!! Nobody forced you to delete 50 message / day , it's not because you don't like something that this thing is trully bad, you are not a kind of god who can decide what is good or bad for the whole world wide web community !!!

Do you think the "be nice" model is just to beautiful to be true ? Well, one of the moderators of our forum actually became the CEO of Adobe Flash : Thibault Imbert. Then yes, I definitly think it's possible to dig your hole while being nice and tolerant.

Did I already been frustrated when I saw a noob asking 10 noob-question every day for month ? Sure. Did I deleted his question or close the subject ? No.

Instead, we (moderators) used to give some links leading to answered questions but we maintained the question opened, and guess what ? Sometimes, an outsider came with an unexpected solution that works very well. This solution exists only because we maintained the ability for other people to answer to that particular question. They didn't knwo the problem already have a solution then they found another one, keeping question open have a great potential while closing it have zero potential. Additionnaly, keeping noob question allow other noob to answer to theses question, and then they get confident, and another time it's a win-win !

On this page : https://stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/stack-overflow-isnt-very-welcoming-its-time-for-that-to-change/

we can read : 'In the longer term, I’d like us to aim for something closer to what Jon Skeet told me about his experience attending a pride parade (as a cis straight dude): “I wasn’t just tolerated; I was made to feel like the community was actually better because I was there.” '

This is exactly how it was on our french forum, really.

For example, I remember someone who used to speak french very badly. At the beginning, we moderated his messages many times but when we understood he was not french but was doing his best to communicate with us, then we helped him to speak better and we were much more tolerant. 2 years laters, he was fluent in french and became a moderator too actually, because he was good at programming. It was definitly a win-win.

This kind of story is just impossible on SO and I really don't understand why you are so pride of your rules.

You should break them since it doesn't serve anymore the common interest. That's what I think.

EDIT : Another thing, it's just my opinion but I dislike how works the reputation point. Some people already wrote about its limits and its usage. https://www.outofscope.com/how-i-got-20k-points-on-stack-overflow/

In our forum, there were no reputation, you had a "score" based on the amount of messages you post. It was an indicator of how familiar you are with the forum, and that's all. In order to get good reputation (I mean a real good one) , you need to really help a lot of people, then these people respected you a lot by themself.

A lot of people hate the moderators of SO , that's not what I call "good reputation"...

To be honnest, sometimes it was hard to be nice all the time.

The fact is, even if there were no reputation-point, reputation was important too and the only one way you had to have (and maintain !) a good reputation was to answer a lot of question AND to be nice.

And actually, it may sounds weird but being nice on our forum was more important than being an expert, but we "built" a lot of experts.

It's much more easy to become an expert when every people around you really wants to help you. As a user, you want to help other people because you want to be a part of it, this is how it was... And because most of users started on this forum as a beginner, they received a lot of help too and they feel like normal to help in return...

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Tim Post Jul 9 '18 at 15:57
-11

Good Morning,

I’m a 20-year veteran system administrator, 10-year veteran coder, 10-year team leader, and long-time user of Stack Exchange. I very much appreciate the site, and also appreciate the invitation to comment on the new Code of Conduct.

=== TL; DR ===

As much as I love and depend on Stack Exchange – a certain amount of callousness and “annoyed eye rolling” seems to be built into the site, which then affects how users view each other.

There are as many tools and guidelines (designed for both users and moderators) for marking something/someone as “stupid” as there are for marking something as “appropriate”. I realize this is an attempt to keep the site professional, but – in fact – it reduces professionality and simply reminds people that “a certain amount of negativity is OK”. At no corporation I’ve worked at in the last 20 years, would “negative reinforcement” be seen as an acceptable leadership policy.

I would recommend removing these inherently negative, or passive aggressive feedback loops – and focus on only positive-based feedback loops.

=== LONG STORY ===

In my initial review of the new policies, I see many good things. But it seems to be missing a strongly underlying cause of the negativity on the site – which is built into the philosophy of the site itself.

When I plan a question on stack exchange, I think long and hard on whether I want to post, and risk the inevitable negative blowback should I make a mistake, or even just a typo. There seems to be a surplus of “ego” encouraged in both moderators and users, as well as built into the very mindset of the site. This ego then becomes inherently combative, instead of supportive.

Instead of creating a "helpful" environment, it creates one that is combative and competitive, where "noobs and stupids are not tolerated"...which has already been demonstrated in the comments to answers in this very thread. This is where the negativity you're trying to correct with the "Code of Conduct" actually stems.

Please let me explain…

For example, this is seen in the reputation system. There’s two aspects …

  1. “Upvoting” to gain reputation. I.e. “This was a good answer/question”. Very positive and helpful. This helps you know who’s answers you can trust.

  2. “Downvoting” … even into negative points. A way to say, “That was stupid” (inherently negative). The very fact that this is allowed, unintentionally creates a mindset within the site that “pointing out stupidity” is valid and useful. This influences the entire personality of the user base.

This is also seen within the rules guiding moderators.

Some common moderator tasks are:

-   Halting questions that may be redundant, or similar to other questions. 
-   Halting questions that may be “in the wrong forum”.
-   Halting questions that may be poorly formed.

You’ll notice a common thread here: “Halting”, not “Helping”.

I realize these are volunteers. And I understand a policy of needing to save server storage space and database access times (and users not getting glutted with 100 pages of answers that are all the same).

But when a moderator halts a question, versus helping correct it, it sends an unintentional message to users and moderators alike that “Bad questions (and stupid users) will be shut out.”

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Get rid of the downvote, or at least prevent people from being downvoted into negative space.

  • There’s very little valid reason in the modern internet to just “end” a question. The storage space and database thrashing (with modern cheap storage and strong databases) simply isn’t as big an issue as it was in the early internet.

  • If a question is redundant, have the moderator post a link (as they do) but leave the question open for comments, suggestions, and answers. Don’t lock users out.

  • If it’s a badly phrased question, have the moderator leave it open with suggestions as to how to make it better. Or have the moderator simply edit it to be better (as they can already do). Again, don’t lock users out.

  • If it’s off topic – actually move the question to the correct forum (versus killing it and making the user re-do it). In my experience with moderating sites, this usually actually takes less moderator time.

  • If a comment is pointless (like a “Thank you”) – honestly, so what? With the cost of modern storage, the space is insignificant. In my experience with sites, this does NOT cause any glut in finding pertinent comments. But it does encourage community versus ego.

“Professional” does not mean “callous” or cold.

  • 2
    1. Why? How do we determine which questions are bad if we don’t have downvoting? 2. The questions aren’t deleted from the server. People with enough reputation can see and even undelete them. 3. The questions are left open for comments. 4. The questions are left open for comments. 5. There normally isn’t a correct forum for off-topic questions. 6. If it’s pointless, why keep it? It’s a waste of time for people to read. – Tim Jul 19 '18 at 10:46
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    Stack exchange's entire selling point and point of differentiation is the adversarial system they got going on. It's what keeps this from turning into yahoo answers (an unhelpful cesspit) – Magisch Jul 19 '18 at 12:27
  • 3
    Questions don't get removed to save database space, but to save human effort. The idea is that the highest voted questions are shown first, but on the site and on search engines. At least in theory, this provides quick access to the best questions and answers. (In practice it's all a bit murkier... but it does work as far as search engines go, in my experience.) – S.L. Barth Jul 19 '18 at 13:24
  • Regarding migration - we do have options to migrate off-topic questions to other Stack Exchange sites. Problem is, we only want to migrate the good questions. We only want to migrate the questions that will be welcome on those sites. No point in moving it if it just gets scorned at its new destination. Most off-topic questions are also low quality; the few exceptions generally do get migrated. (TBH, I'd be in favor for a quicker migration process, but I have no idea how it should work.) – S.L. Barth Jul 19 '18 at 13:29
  • I hear al your points, and am not surprised by the down-votes. But many seem to have missed the point. The question is"How to improve the Code of Conduct". Regardless of whether the "downvotes" are useful, the absolutely contribute the aggressive and adversarial nature of the site - which the site owner's have stated in their literature about he Code of Conduct that they want to lose. Unfortunately, they need to decide which is worse. The negativity of the general site, or the value of downvoting. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:25
  • @Tim, you can tell if a question is "bad" by the lack of upvotes. But more importantly, as I mentioned, why do we care how "bad" it is? As has been discovered by most sites, traffic to valuable information can be discovered entirely by "upvotes". Down votes have little impact on masking the visibility of "good" comments. Also, as I mentioned, the ready and cheap availability of storage and database processing make "cleaning out" useless comments mostly pedantic and pointless. Its not 1997 anymore ;) I think you're confusing "score keeping" with "adversarial". One is good, the other is petty. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:31
  • 2
    @BurningKrome How do you tell the difference between not very popular (i.e. nobody saw it) and bad? We care how bad it is because that's how we work out what questions we want. We have to limit the bad questions because otherwise the site quality goes down. As already mentioned, the questions (and comments) aren’t deleted from the server. People with enough reputation can see and in some cases undelete them. We clear out useless comments because they're useless! – Tim Jul 19 '18 at 16:34
  • @Magisch. I would disagree entirely. Again, I think you're confusing "adversarial" with "score keeping of value". It has been well demonstrated that traffic to value can be maintained entirely with positive feedback (upvotes). Downvotes offer no real ability to mask low value comments. I think this is now an axiom in modern web design and self-evident. A score system is valuable, but downvotes do not contribute to it. However, they absolutely contribute to the "snarky" nature of the site - which the owners wish to dissuade. It says, "Saying you suck is OK" and it bleeds into the comments. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:38
  • @S.L. Barth Yes. I agree. But, again, I'm not recommending the removal of the voting system - just the downvotes. It is well shown that downvoting (versus only upvoting) offers no real additional value for separating the good from the chaff - which is why most modern sites have abandoned them. However, it does set a tone for the site. The tone of, "Saying you suck is just as valuable as saying you're awesome." And this general attitude is what's leading to your code of conduct issues. The idea that negative pressure is useful. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:43
  • @S.L. Barth As for wasted time, why police that. That's a bit pedantic IMHO. When Googling, or looking at a post, the upvotes still rise the good to the top. I use, and have been the Pm, for a number of large trafficked sites. The first half dozen, highly upvoted messages are shown first and get the attention. I would be deeply surprised if the removal of the downvoting portion (and some of the permissions to be negative) affected this in any way. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:45
  • Ironically, I think this question is an example of the dangers of the downvoting system. I have stated an opinion that is unpopular, and as a result my reputation on this site is dropping. Not because of my technical skills, or because I've been rude, or even been particularly stupid. But I have been unpopular. This is the biggest complaint I hear about Stack Exchange. It's very "cliquish". And it drives traffic away form the site. I will probably regret having made this post, due to the negative blowback. Which is why I felt it important to make it. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:51
  • @Tim I hear you, but disagree. I'm not suggesting getting rid of the voting system, just the downvotes. Upvotes alone will absolutely drive the quality of the site, letting the value rise and the chaff fall. But I think you really hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. "We clear out useless comments because they're useless!". Thats seems like less of a pragmatic value, but one of "You (the commenter) are irritating to me, and I feel your participation should be pushed away". As I read it, this is the very attitude the writers of the new code of conduct wish to eliminate. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 16:59
  • @BurningKrome If you get rid of the downvotes, you don't have a voting system anymore. Imagine a school where people only got gold stars - never a punishment. It doesn't work. You yourself described them as useless. Let's not keep them. – Tim Jul 19 '18 at 17:01
  • @Tim Well, I guess thats the point we disagree on. First, yes, actually you can entirely drive good behavior with "only gold stars". Your belief there is (IMHO) simply incorrect. But. more importantly, thats the attitude that many people dislike about Stack Exchange. You are not a school, or a parent, or a teacher. It is not your purview to "punish people for being <dumb, noob, annoying, whatever bothers you>". That sounds more like personality/emotional management versus site traffic management. And this is what makes the site so unattractive and intimidating to so many users. – BurningKrome Jul 19 '18 at 17:08
  • 1
    @BurningKrome First, let me comfort you about one thing - having a low reputation score here says nothing about your technical skills. This site is not Stack Overflow, it's the place where we exchange ideas about Stack Overflow and the other SE sites. Whether we agree or not, I appreciate that you bring your point of view forward. – S.L. Barth Jul 19 '18 at 17:55
-12

Here are my thoughts:

"If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming."

I don't find the site to be either patient or welcoming. The people who have been here the longest seem so disconnected from that concept. One of my very first posts on this site was intended to be informative, and was treated as though it were a commercial promotion. I was simply trying to be helpful, and I was helpful, but I was dealt with harshly. I still continued to use information from the site, but I didn't post any more for a few years until I was in a position where I felt like I had to. I use information from this site extensively, but I have learned how to be careful in choosing which questions to answer, so I don't get bitten much these days. I still see a hostile attitude toward newcomers all over the place. I've read enough on here to understand the rationalizations that are used to justify this behavior. The smugness shown by many of the users with very high scores is a real detriment. This is not intended to accuse all of the long-time users at all. I have seen some people with very high scores who are generous with their time and kind with their guidance. Overall I see a lack of kindness on this site.

"...don't worry if others suggest changes or edit your question - they’re trying to make your question helpful to as many people as possible."

Often that is true. It is also often the case that people suggest these changes to demonstrate their "superior" knowledge. This should not be the case, but it is. As long as the description of a problem accurately conveys the elements of the problem it doesn't have to use the same buzzwords and terminology as someone who is an expert in the topic. I realize the rationalization for these type of changes is that it makes it easier for others to find the answer, and that is true if the others are also experts in the field. The issue is that the people who will most likely need the answer are not the experts in the field. I'm not talking about accepting things which do not accurately describe the problem to be solved. I'm strictly talking about edits which are done purely for terminology reasons, when the existing post accurately conveys the problem to be solved or question to be answered.

  • 6
    I dispute that people edit only to demonstrate their superior knowledge. Links, please. – fbueckert Jul 9 '18 at 13:22
  • 1
    In your comment you claim that I say "...people edit only to demonstrate..." I made no such claim. There is a huge gap between saying "It is often the case that...." and saying that "people edit only to demonstrate" My claim is that some people show good will in their edits and some do not. This question asks "We'd like your feedback on our new Code of Conduct!" The votes that I have received for my answer shows how poorly this site accepts constructive criticism. – Itsme2003 Jul 11 '18 at 12:05
  • 3
    When your entire criticism is predicated upon a false premise, and you refuse to show proof, it's not constructive in the least. You can either prove it and provide evidence as requested, or don't, and accept that people think you're wrong. – fbueckert Jul 11 '18 at 12:13
-14

Here's another example you might like to add of "being nice": Don't use jargon words like "burninate" and "sock puppet" that might mean something to experienced users of the site but mean nothing to newcomers, and just make them feel excluded from the club.

  • Wow, a downvote with no explanation within 2 seconds! That's definitely someone who doesn't want to be nice! – Michael Kay Jul 17 '18 at 13:55
  • 4
    I downvoted because I disagree. – Tim Jul 17 '18 at 13:57
  • 3
    Ideally, we can reduce usage of terms with no context or make it clearer as to what they mean, but jargon certainly has a place here - and, honestly, those terms are either well-known on the Internet (sockpuppet) or described in detail on Meta (burninate). – HDE 226868 Jul 17 '18 at 13:58
  • 3
    If the new CoC will have "Do not downvote without leaving a reason", I'm out of Stack Exchange for good, and most likely most other users as well. SE will be really nice, and empty, place. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 17 '18 at 14:03
  • @ShadowWizard Same here. But I think OP's point is that the downvote was in 2 seconds. Not uncommon on SE meta sites, but it does suggest (not prove, suggest) that the downvoter barely read the answer before voting. – S.L. Barth Jul 17 '18 at 14:05
  • 4
    Every community has its jargon. Jargon comes into existence because it is needed . Ban the jargon terms, and new terms will take their place. – S.L. Barth Jul 17 '18 at 14:20
  • 3
    I don't think the use of such words is the problem, how we respond when users are confused by those words is what matters. Not go google for our dictionary but It is a common term around here and is used for ..... find more of these common words in our glossary or a similar worded sentence. – rene Jul 17 '18 at 14:25
  • @S.L.Barth this answer is short enough to be read in 2 seconds. Longer answers are usually just skipped, hence draw much less votes. (up or down) – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Jul 17 '18 at 14:35
  • Wow, actually someone who shares the sentiment that such kinds of trend words give off a significant in-crowd vibe. Though, I'd agree that this doesn't have anything to do in the CoC. Neither is there much that can be done against such terms substantiating inside a closed community. – Christian Rau Jul 18 '18 at 16:03
  • Can anyone imagine anything less welcoming than issuing a question "we'd like your feedback" and then throwing mud at someone who responds by providing it? – Michael Kay Jul 18 '18 at 16:39
  • 1
    @MichaelKay: Yes. How about banning someone who responds by providing it? More to the point, Meta is about figuring out which arguments and positions are considered best by the community, so downvotes are issued quite freely on posts that folks disagree with (often, but not always, along with commenting with criticisms or upvoting such comments). Never mind the fact that SE-the-company asked the question while SE-the-community is doing almost all of the voting on answers. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 19 '18 at 5:55
-18

It's great you want to be more inclusive and more nice, because, as a relative newbie (who uses this site almost daily for only... 2 years?) hands down it is a very unwelcoming website. And actually, from my perspective, the main problem are the "veterans" with their unhelpful attitude. I sometimes wonder how someone with so much points got them by being so unhelpful... and was the user like that when he just started, or did the user just forgot how it is.

And reading the "answers" here just proves it even more - as these veterans complain that they don't want to be more nice and inclusive.

If anything, IMO, this site suffers from over moderation, and trigger happiness on that vote close flags.

Keep in mind that the world can very much exist without stack overflow. There's not one answer in SO that can't be found with enough research in blogs/books/etc. If you expect a newbie to go over all the website and see what already exists, and what isn't (which sometimes can be - "oh, it was answered on the 13th line in the 3rd answer from the end, and was later developed in the 4th comment") - then you might as well expect the user not to use your site at all.

As agentv mentioned, I too know quite a few (talented and experienced) programmers who are silent readers. In essence, they treat this website just as any other info source on the web, and would not dare asking a question.

I definitely think you/we should try to change that.

  • 9
    One could argue that the best way to change the culture of an all-volunteer community is to participate and be the role model for others. Show these veterans, how much better the site could be, by walking in their shoes and be even better doing so. Be that change. Contributing yourself and setting a good example how to do that is more powerful than just criticizing those that already contribute. – nvoigt Jul 6 '18 at 10:17
  • 2
    "just" criticizing? Being a human being is much more powerful than just being a contributor in an online community of developers. – David Refaeli Jul 6 '18 at 17:30
  • 4
    Not sure I understand your comment. We are all human beings (at least I'd assume so). – nvoigt Jul 6 '18 at 18:20
  • 3
    You see SE websites as very unwelcoming because I bet you didn't read the rules how to ask questions in each community and how to answer. Then you wonder that everybody is complaining because you're inventing your own rules and blaming others for not following them. – shiny-metal Jul 6 '18 at 18:30
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    No. The mission is to build a library of detailed answers. The mission is NOT to build an inclusive community. An inclusive community is a good thing only to the degree that it contributes to the actual mission of the site. (I'm not saying we shouldn't be inclusive. I'm saying that's not the mission.) – Wildcard Jul 6 '18 at 18:54
  • 4
    I'm surprised you've had so many downvotes for this answer, David. I'm also surprised that some people are being unpleasant on this webpage, and employing their usual weaponized downvoting. But I guess they don't appreciate the irony. +1 – John Duffield Jul 7 '18 at 7:30
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    @JohnDuffield thanks. I didn't expect otherwise, but I thought it's important to vocalize what probably a lot of people feel and are afraid to express. Luckily I couldn't care less. – David Refaeli Jul 7 '18 at 10:52
  • 1
    @Wildcard per the new CoC, the mission is now "to build an inclusive community" – user9399 Jul 8 '18 at 2:50
  • 2
    @user9399 Actually, that's that specific team's mission, not SE's. That really does need to be clarified, yeah. – fbueckert Jul 9 '18 at 15:22
  • @nvoigt "be the change". The point is that people are being put off by certain behavior and no longer see the point of investing (wasting) their time in the site. I've seen perfectly recoverable and useful questions being closed in matter of hours, without any effort to fix them and in one case with false motives (reason given to close the answer not corresponding to truth, and that prevented further editing). When this is not only allowed but also defended by other high rank users, there is no point in wasting any more time in trying to change the system. – Sredni Vashtar Jul 18 '18 at 19:43
  • @SredniVashtar assuming you were right... in what way would you expect this code of conduct to change any of what you experienced? – nvoigt Jul 19 '18 at 6:22
  • @nvoigt I don't think that is fixable by the (current) Coc. I am just pointing out a problem; what others have called elitism (I would call that 'broomstickism') might be caused by the ranking system (I am saying this because I've seen similar dynamics on the Usenet - last century - but they did not fully develop because the 'top posters' had no real 'power' there. Here, instead, it appears that having high rep and being a long-term user entitles them and a small circle of their peers to own the group, to the point that it is possible to close a question with "whatever" reason, just because. – Sredni Vashtar Jul 19 '18 at 21:43
  • Some ideas: if you want this site to host high quality questions and answers you should give enough time for the other users to fix things. This is not a chat, and the fact that you (impersonal you) were not able to see how to fix it, and how this could turn into an interesting question+answer does not mean that the rest of the world is like you. Moreover: reasons to close a question must be true. If you close a question saying "it is not clear what you are asking" when the question is clearly stated, you are preventing further editing. So, add reasons like "Screw this, I don't like it"... – Sredni Vashtar Jul 19 '18 at 21:51
  • ...to make it clear. The rules must be clear and the same for everyone. Being able to invent your rules because you have high rep undermines IMHO the 'democratic' (as in voting) aspect of this site. Seeing that I can spend hours to craft a thoughtful answer only to see a question closed and possibly deleted before even having the time to fix it is enough for me to renounce investing any more time here. I will content myself with leeching, thank you. (There are other things but time, you know...) – Sredni Vashtar Jul 19 '18 at 21:57
-38

How will the new Code of Conduct treat insensitive language/microaggressions?

On programming sites I often come across ableist terms or words, used in a derogatory sense (TW 🚫), such as "blind", "stupid", "dumb", "autistic", "retarded", and "insane". While they're rarely directed at other users, they may be triggering for disabled and neuroatypical users of the site. Lookist terms like "ugly" are also in common use.

If my reading of the CoC draft is correct, they tick a few boxes:

  • Subtle put-downs or unwelcoming language
  • Language likely to offend or alienate people based on disability, mental illness, neurodiversity, or physical appearance

Occasionally, I've seen users sexualize things they like by calling them "sexy". Will that be allowed by the CoC? In general, how will we (the community) be expected to handle posts/comments containing all those words?

Will the new Code of Conduct apply to code snippets?

Sometimes even code posted on the Stack Exchange network contain offensive or insensitive language. In a way, this topic has been discussed before on SO, but a new/clearer stance will be needed, I think.

As an example, just two weeks ago someone asked for help with their code that printed something depending on the value of the BMI, including

  • "you are underweight"
  • "you are clinically fat"
  • "you are obese, exerise more and eat less"

These (especially the harsher last one) go very much against the size acceptance movement and may even be damaging, but back then my flag calling out "fat shaming and anti-fat bias in code" was declined.

Furthermore, even in 2018, I very often see questions about code, supporting just two gender options.

I get that these topics are polarising, but there's no doubt these code snippets are at least off-putting and stressful for many marginalized readers, and will most likely be in violation of the new CoC, as containing "subtle put-downs or unwelcoming language", and "any language likely to offend or alienate people based on physical appearance or body size" (first example) and "gender identity or expression" (second example).

It gets more complicated with problematic but universally recognized software engineering terms like "sanity check" (ableism) or "master/slave" (may carry racially charged meanings to readers), both of which are likely to alienate some. It's harder to edit someone else's code without changing its meaning, so...

What are our options?

  • 18
    I've found the concept of "microagressions" to be within the eye of the beholder. "Triggering" tends to be worse, with many people defining it as "I get offended easily". There's no middle-ground for enforcement, either. They have offended me so we must punish them! That's a poor model for serious conversation. If someone is offended the proper course of action is to express that offense to the speaker, not mod flags. As with my kids, if the behavior continues, we can consider that harassment (and the policy covers that), but let's not create language police with chips on their shoulder. – Machavity Jul 5 '18 at 14:52
  • 14
    "Furthermore, even in 2018, I very often see questions about code, supporting just two gender options." Keep in mind that you can't win on this one: there are quite a lot of people whose historical, sincerely-held religious beliefs would be offended by changing this thing that you were offended by to almost any other option. So, since both "option button: M/F" and "37-entry dropdown" are going to offend some groups, we're going to have to either grow up and accept both possibilities without complaint, or get used to constant complaints back and forth, or make sure SE eliminates one side. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 5 '18 at 21:54
  • 1
    For the question with the BMI counter, what stopped you from editing it to not include those terms? If it's a simple question based on the output of a number, you'd be able to edit that out without ripping out any context. Why flag? – Magisch Jul 6 '18 at 7:03
  • Further, most of the stuff you mentioned is a two way street. Other people might be sincerely offended by the inclusion of such tone policing or expanded descriptions. The master/slave thing I just dont get personally but if you can edit it without destroying context in a question, nothing is stopping you. – Magisch Jul 6 '18 at 7:04
  • 20
    I encountered a Q not long ago where the OP was designing an application form. It requested gender information, which is quite standard, and someone complained in comments about it being discriminatory. From the name the OP is not part of the Western culture and did not understand the comment. And if he had he probably would have been very offended. IMO carrying this type of policy to real-world code snippets simply goes too far. – Cindy Meister Jul 6 '18 at 8:36
  • 10
    'my flag calling out "fat shaming and anti-fat bias in code" was declined.' - rightfully so. If one is clinically obese they should see a doctor and not tumblr, even if they might prefer to be told that it's OK to be obese instead of going on a diet to help you get back to a more healthy lifestyle. – ThiefMaster Jul 12 '18 at 14:58
  • 5
    I fail to understand how "master/slave" is rooted in racism. Many civilizations enslaved people of the same ethnic background as them. I agree with the other commenters that microagressions are within the eye of the beholder, and you can't expect a website to thrive if you police speech this harshly. – Docteur Jul 17 '18 at 13:07

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