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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

11

My largest concerns are already addressed several times over by other answers, but, oddly, no one seems to have recognized that most of the "Reporting and Enforcement" section does not belong in the document at all. In particular, all of the enforcement details belong elsewhere, perhaps in the Terms of Service, or maybe in a for-purpose policy document. That stuff is not about how members should conduct themselves. Moreover, putting it in a separate document will mean that SE can change enforcement policy without modifying the CoC document.

Here's my take on how that section should be rewritten (with minor additional editorial suggestions):

Reporting

Every person contributes to creating a kind, respectful community. If you find unacceptable behavior directed at yourself or others then you can help by

  • Flagging the harmful content. Depending on the content, flagging will alert moderators or trigger an automatic deletion.
  • Addressing it directly. If you’re comfortable addressing the person who instigated it, let them know how this behavior affects you or others. You can also remind them of the Code of Conduct. If the behavior escalates, disengage immediately -- staff or moderators will take action.
  • Contacting us. We’ll respond as quickly as we can.

[From there, straight to:]


We created this Code of Conduct not because we expect misconduct, but [...]

  • Lest it be lost, the extra editorial suggestions are mostly centered around changing "you can" to "you can help by". This couches the recommended behaviors in a less confrontational context, and also does not lend itself to an interpretation that a person observing abuse is obligated to take one of the three listed actions. – John Bollinger Jul 6 '18 at 17:48
11

You have summoned some trouble. Your COC is defective in certain ways that will result in the COC actually implemented not equivalent to the COC stated. Unfortunately, it's also too long. If you can't get it down to one screen it won't be read.

Particular defects:

  • "No discrimination" conflicts with "no subtle put-downs". There's no way you could forsee this unless you already know about the inherent problem, yet it remains. Mental illness vs subtle put-downs is going to get into a fight. I'm sorry, it's extremely difficult to explain why. The same words end up meaning different things depending on which perspective you project.

  • "No harassment" is going to be its own can of worms. I've seen too many cases of flagged offensive in a debate where whether or not it was offensive depended on which side of the debate you took. Something's wrong with the wording here.

11

Most of this document I do not consider to be a "code of conduct".

In a comment to Kobi's answer, a moderator (Kristina Lustig) states: "I think this is a point of clarification: the team of us working on this stuff's mission is as stated - it's a separate mission from our overall company mission. Having a specific team mission helps us scope and direct our work appropriately"

How are we to know which content the proposed, public "code of conduct" comprises, and about which we should comment, and which is "internal"?

The "code of conduct" should be short, so that people will read it through. It should be to the point. It should be stable and not subject to frequent minor changes; details belong in supplementary material (Help, FAQ) that can be updated at need.

IMO the topics "Our Expectations" and "Unacceptable Behavior" belong in a Code of Conduct.

"Reporting and Enforcement" is a border-case, and I wouldn't go into much detail. A link to general Help or FAQ that covers the information would be better.

What does not belong IMO is the detail of how moderators handle "misconduct". A link to an article in Help or FAQ where moderator responsibilites, etc. are described would be as far as I would go.

A problem I see with the content is that some examples are listed, but the lists aren't exhaustive, nor should they be - this isn't the place for details. Instead, a topic should link to more in-depth information. Example: the second point under "Our Expectations" says: "Follow our guidelines..." This should be a link to the guidelines, where various things are listed, in addition to the fact that other users may edit a question. The way this reads, that's the only thing people will expect. But they also need to realize they could be asked for more information, that they should include code, etc.

The logic of the wording "Unacceptable Behavior", followed by a list beginning with "No" is contradictory? No subtle put-downs is unacceptable? I propose: "Subtle put downs and unrespectful address can have a signicant negative impact on others, regardless of intent."

"Unwelcoming language" is ambiguous - who's to decide what that is? What's welcoming in one culture may not be in another. I'd much rather see "Be professional" or "address others respectfully".

Under "No discrimination" - What follows is actually further admonishment about what I'd term "unwelcoming". Better might be "Intolerant references directed at others. Refrain from remarks alluding to race, gender..."

11

There are several issues with this CoC...

First of all, it isn't an instrumentation of the SE sites core mission, heck, it doesn't even link back to any meta post. There's nothing about it that makes users to collaborate and respect each others. Yeah, it covers name calling pretty well, but so also does respect, and without any of those issues that were already pointed out.

Secondly, this thing also segregates users into groups and give weapons to attack each others. You ABSOLUTELY do not want this. It's called tribalism and while it allowed us to focus our collective towards a single goal, in this case it only serves to separate all users into classes/castes and tell them how to treat the other castes. Remember, tribalism thrives on making other tribes look bad, independently of how they actually are (see this CGP Grey short about it or look for "human tribalism" in Google Scholar). This behavior leads to absurd results because, a) it only allows us to collaborate in specific stuff and b) such stuff is usually meaningless (see SO position on editing). This goes against your intent of "together" and is more like "us". This is dangerous if codified, and surely the end of a collaboratively site like SE.

Thirdly, most of the CoC can just be summarily deleted. Yes, it has examples, and yes, people loves examples, but only give those if they don't understand simpler and blunter words and not in the CoC. The entire thing could be summarized as "be nice to each other and don't be a dick" and it would apply to all of it, from the interactions between any level of users privileges to the humans with the system. Don't codify mbadness (stealing straight from Shog's fingers), the CoC should be a framework and as such it should be very simple. It should be easily digested. Just leverage meta if you want to make a point or dive into a topic.

Now, this is for the ones that wrote it: remember, your opinions are not what you are. It's human to feel aggravated, but it's also possible to humans to be reasonable. Stop what you are thinking right now, it would be meaningless trying to be introspective right now. Cool off, then read this 3 times over, read what you wrote 3 times, and this post 3 times again. I took up until now to write 4 measly paragraphs and I already had read the CoC when there the Google Doc didn't have an absurd amount of animals in there. Others also did a fair amount of work trying to mince the whole thing along with all the context surrounding it. What's the worse it could happen, anyways? Writing it all again?

10

Minor pedantry on wording:

Our mission is to build an inclusive community where all people feel welcome and can participate, regardless of expertise, identity, or language

This phrasing could be misunderstood by both non-native speakers of the language or those who may take words literally (as noted by @empty). The word "language" is ambiguous representing use of wording within the English language and the use of a non-English language. It could imply that it is OK to use non-English and it would be "not-nice" to remove or sanction other world languages when used.

I know that is not what you meant, but I can see it being argued about.

I notice @KorvinStarmast suggested a better rewording.

  • Does the Code mean "...or native language" ? If so, that's great. But it leads to a question: Some SE properties require particular languages. For example, StackOverflow requires English. How does the Code relate to that requirement? Does it need more explanation? – O. Jones Jul 8 '18 at 13:19
10

I see a lot of answers here concerned about "No discrimination of any kind" or "No subtle put-downs or unwelcoming language" and rightly so. When you start getting into the realm of policing language in the broader aspect "of any kind" then you start sounding like the politically correct "social justice warrior" world that has done nothing but bring cancer to politics, news and YouTube.

I understand the need to deal with actual hate speech or speech that incites violence. However, we should not be policing at the level of "any kind".

Think of the way this "WILL" be abused. Anyone can come on and claim they are uncomfortable with a post or comment when it is by all rights benign or mildly sarcastic. Everything from frustration to being candid can be considered uncomfortable and will limit the interactions of the users.

It will get so bad due to the complaints of trolls or those who are offended by the drop of a hat that most users will no longer wish to comment, ask questions or even answer them in fear of being labeled as hate speech or unwelcome. You may say this won't happen, but given the history of social media, news and YouTube, history will repeat itself here at Stack Overflow and other Stack Exchange sites. This will only serve to degrade this community and eventually make Stack Exchange too toxic to want to use.

As a final note, I will say that one cannot know the mind of the readers and to not say something out of fear of offending is not going to be constructive or worth one's time to contribute to this site that we all love.

Do provide guidelines to improve, but do not provide guidelines that restrict speech to the point of choking the communities creative speech and need to voice their opinions.

  • 1
    I was looking to have a conversation on this topic but no one seams to want to comment. As of the time of this comment I got 7 up votes and 2 down votes so far. That tells me that some agree and some don't. I would like to know others thoughts on this as I feel it is one of the most important section of this CoC and will have the biggest impact. – Mike - SMT Jul 18 '18 at 13:10
  • This has played out in chat and resulted in a pretty lengthy conversation about it if you want to read through it. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/309645/… and... "It will get so bad due to the complaints of trolls or those who are offended by the drop of a hat that most users will no longer wish to comment, ask questions or even answer them in fear of being labeled as hate speech or unwelcome." has already occurred there. – Kevin B Jul 18 '18 at 19:45
  • @KevinB good to know and I will go look at it. It is in a separate Q/A and this is part of the discussion on this specific portion of the CoC proposal. So I would argue that this should be discussed in context of this CoC proposal and not part of a separate Q/A post. – Mike - SMT Jul 18 '18 at 19:49
  • Agreed, just pointing out that there was such a discussion regarding rule lawyering and it resulting in people just not participating anymore. – Kevin B Jul 18 '18 at 19:51
  • @KevinB Thanks for the info. I am reading it now. Good to know that there is already evidence of just the thing I (and others) are concerned about. – Mike - SMT Jul 18 '18 at 19:53
  • The big difference WRT comments is that losing people here will be far less visible; there's always more users to leave comments and answer questions. With chat on the other hand, it's a much smaller community that grows at a far slower rate, so the impact felt far greater even though we really only lost maybe 3 active users, the rest just stopped discussing things there. – Kevin B Jul 18 '18 at 20:00
  • @KevinB No I think it will be visible. There are smaller groups within Stack Exchange. Look at the Tkinter group of people who answer Tkinter questions. It is normal the same dozen people and if we start to lose them due to this then we have lost most of the active knowledgeable users on Tkinter. I would say there are sever small groups of people within specific tags and the same will happen within those spaces as well. – Mike - SMT Jul 19 '18 at 11:52
9

Re: "Chat TL;DR"

I wish there were another bullet, before "If someone points out..." along the lines of

If something bothers you, speak up! Ask someone to stop what they're doing, explain your reason, ask a room owner or other experienced chatizen for help.

This, in my opinion, is one of the first places chat breaks down: people fail to use their words. Let's encourage them to do so. When chatizens use their words (rather than flags or just letting thing fester) it reinforces good behavior, it provides good examples to others who might be nervous about speaking up, it smokes out trollish behavior... a nice virtuous cycle.

  • On the other hand...there was this. real_ate was kicked from the room for those messages and then later kicked again after people called him a troll. I'll emphasise that this was the Javascript room. – Draco18s Jul 3 '18 at 20:58
9

I think that this is a great start and will go a long way to changing the SO culture.

I have some suggestions for improvement.

Unacceptable Behavior

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

In addition to the suggestion above about reversing the ranking of the above steps, I would like to suggest that for every example of unacceptable behavior there be a counter-example of acceptable behavior. In supporting neurodiversity, you also have to help those who don't already understand social cues. A lot of folks I work with are on the autism spectrum. And I think I'm safe to say we're almost all introverts--if we weren't we'd be outside playing with the other children instead of sitting in a dark room with a bright box.

For example:

  • Don't say: "You could Google this in 5 seconds."
  • Do say: "Could you help me answer by posting what you've tried so far?"

In fact, I'm actually uncomfortable with that Google example. There are a lot of Let Me Google That For You questions on SO. Perhaps a "lacks effort" flag we can hit?

An additional point is I would like to see some clear guidelines for moderators. Many of my unpleasant experiences have been with moderators who work hard but need to also work on their social skills. And if you get hit by a cop who are you going to call? Just saying "contact us directly" isn't enough. Doing so, puts the poster at risk for retaliation.

  • 1
    How is your googling example better? Removing the time span barely makes it more subtle. – Helmar Jul 3 '18 at 17:14
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    Also I don't get your last paragraph, the community team is the escalation level when moderators are concerned... – Helmar Jul 3 '18 at 17:15
  • @Helmar the issue is with users who do absolutely no work at all on their question and expect their question to be answered. I have seen numerous examples of cut-and-paste homework assignment being the entirety of the question when the Google answer is the top result. I'm sorry you don't like my wording. How would you word it? – empty Jul 3 '18 at 17:19
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    Try Googling is still a subtle put down. – user390407 Jul 3 '18 at 17:36
  • @Helmar it would be helpful to me if you could give a concrete example so that I can improve my post. Thanks! – empty Jul 3 '18 at 17:39
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    Add a 'In order to avoid giving you suggestions you've already tried' to the 'what have you tried so far'? That way, you give people a nudge as to why you're asking :) – Tinkeringbell Jul 3 '18 at 18:02
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    I thought that the "lacks effort" flag is a downvote (based on the text in the mouse over of the down button on questions) – KorvinStarmast Jul 3 '18 at 18:56
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    @KorvinStarmast It is, but a downvote without a comment is almost as unwelcoming these days as the comment saying "there was no effort." – Draco18s Jul 3 '18 at 21:04
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    @Draco18s OK, I see the point. FWIW, downvote without a comment is acceptable Stack behavior. I am pretty sure that won't change. – KorvinStarmast Jul 3 '18 at 21:21
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    And I don't think it should, but I see people all the time saying in comments on their own question, "Why did I get downvoted?" Comments shouldn't be required but at the same time comments that are made in addition to the downvote are often the ones targetted as not welcoming. And I don't want those to go away: they are helpful feedback. – Draco18s Jul 3 '18 at 21:28
  • What is unwelcoming is yet another question about ECC compatibility, that is answered by reading some document released by an OEM, and when you ask for specifics to reduce the number of documents you need to read to answer the question you are told the question isn’t “too broad”. So after you decide the question will not be improved you downvote the question, you are accused of horrible things, and you end up feeling horrible about being unable to help someone with their problem – Ramhound Jul 3 '18 at 22:44
  • -1; considering that we literally have a filter to prevent asking "what have you tried?", it seems unlikely that the site is going to use it as an example of acceptable behaviour in the CoC. – Mark Amery Jul 4 '18 at 9:41
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    @markamery such a filter seems to me rather odd, since folks get downvoted or flagged for not showing what they've tried. – empty Jul 4 '18 at 15:11
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    "Many of my unpleasant experiences have been with moderators... And if you get hit by a cop who are you going to call? Just saying "contact us directly" isn't enough. Doing so, puts the poster at risk for retaliation": I agree with all of this 1000% – user9399 Jul 8 '18 at 2:54
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    @MarkAmery yes the filter exist but my point is that it is a simple matter to get around that filter. – Mike - SMT Jul 19 '18 at 14:52
8

No discrimination of any kind. This includes any language likely to offend or alienate people based on (but not limited to): race, gender, gender identity or expression, English fluency, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, nationality, neurodiversity, physical appearance, body size, or religion.

  1. "race" should probably be changed to ethnicity. Humans are all one race.6

  2. I'm unsure what the difference between "gender" and "gender identity or expression" is - doesn't "gender identity or expression" encompass "gender"? Also, "sexual orientation" is closely linked; put them next to each other rather than splitting them up with *"English fluency".

  3. As other answers have mentioned, we have to discriminate on the grounds of "English fluency". We cannot understand those who have very poor English, and thus have to treat them differently.

  4. "mental illness" and "neurodiversity" seem to be closely linked. Put them next to each other.

  5. "body size" is "physical appearance". There's no need to seperate them.

  6. You've missed age from the list.

  7. There's no real need to split all of these up. You've given a long, non-exhaustive list with a weird order and some nonsensical groups. Just say "No discrimination" - or better, "No personal attacks". There's no reason to split a community up into 100s of individual characteristics just to keep people nice to one another.

    Discrimination will be hard to prove - what will you do to a user who never answers questions from users with Chinese usernames? Do you even have measures in place to detect this? How will this code of conduct help stop this behaviour?

  • Perhaps the order was deliberately random because making the connections between some of these things shows a bias. – apaul Jul 13 '18 at 17:12
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    @apaul I mean you can call bias, but it’s a fact that the ones I mentioned are linked - and not putting them together is confusing: jumping from gender to English fluency to sexual orientation is confusing; the sentence doesn’t flow. – Tim Jul 13 '18 at 17:37
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    The Chinese-characters-in-usernames is a particularly good example. This could happen if the user had some peculiar settings (perhaps a screen reader unable to deal with Chinese characters). Or the user could be on the bad side of the Great Firewall. It would register as discrimination even if it wasn't the user's fault at all - or a result of the user's own disabilities. (NOW who's discriminating...?) – S.L. Barth Jul 19 '18 at 6:34
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    Humans are all one race No, we are all one species. There are different races, but that does not mean some races are inferior to others. As for age, we do discriminate based on age, and are legally required to. – forest Jul 20 '18 at 3:00
  • @forest It's not quite so simple - the term "race" has biological connotations (at least for some) and there is a scientific argument that biologically speaking humans comprise a single race (i.e. the human species cannot be meaningfully split up into any discreet groups based on genetic differences). I believe that is what Tim is referring to. – Ben Jul 20 '18 at 8:27
8

Bottom line: way too long.

This amount of detail doesn't help.

Sure, people wrangle over what "Be Nice" means. But as you can see from the other answers here, they're going to legalistically wrangle over every sentence in this 4 page document now. That's not an improvement. And it sets up the expectation that you can lawyer your way out of being disruptive on a Stack if "well it doesn't list the thing I'm doing in this long document..."

Someone go ask Joel about the KISS principle. In this case, less is more. If you can't sufficiently expand on "Be Nice" in one paragraph then don't.

This CoC is not acceptable and really only one that is much, much shorter and consumable (especially to internet attention spans) would be.

I don't disagree with any of the sentiments in it... Well actually I can't say that, because I got bored and stopped reading halfway through, but let's just say I'm not against it because of any specific thing in it, it's just a poor fit for what we need for a guiding principle. In fact, I'm not sure we need more than the current, maybe with a blog post or meta post with a couple examples of common use cases or something.

  • Can you add some details about what parts you think should be removed? For example, I was under the impression that a CoC doesn't need to go into such great detail about the suspension levels for reach offence... – user392547 Jul 18 '18 at 3:02
8

TL;DR

  • Encouraging us to be more welcoming is acceptable. Forcing us to do so is not.

  • Being even more polite costs even more time and time is very expensive (not in a monetary sense).

  • We can't please every single new user.

  • Be careful with reducing content quality; it's SE's main reason of success.

  • Political correctness is reaching scary levels.

  • "Behavior and typical action" needs to be expanded.


New user participation

our goal is going to remain to include people [that simply aren't comfortable coming here]

Could you tell us what makes them uncomfortable? Since you haven't given us any data on what new users are afraid of on SO / SE, I'll assume based on personal experience that the following are the issue (from most stressful to least):

1. Down-votes, question being closed / deleted, being told they are wrong
If editing and asking clarification can't save it, a bad Q is a bad Q. That's life.

Linking to respective policy in a downvoted/closed Q is the way to go. It's not perfect; many will not read it or simply feel too unwelcome by the downvotes and never return. But there is no way around that.

2. Being told their question is easy to google
Addressed in other answers.

3. Snarky comments
Should be discouraged. Simply deleting them might leave the poster unaware of his wrong doing. Contact poster explaining what's wrong.


CoC feels as if it encourages us to be an overprotective parent

No subtle put-downs or unwelcoming language

So should I always be afraid of speaking in case he interprets it as a put-down?

For example, being told I'm wrong is somewhat stressful but also extremely useful, so I encourage it. However, not everyone responds the same way to such feedback. Some people can learn to love criticism, others never will. Personally, I don't have the time to educate every single user. Perhaps create a page that explains to new users that:

  • 'Being wrong doesn't make you an incompetent person.'

  • 'I gave you for free my time by pointing your mistake; be thankful not defensive.'

I'd rather spend 30 secs on a succinct comment than 4 minutes typing "hello, thanks, would you kindly". If you start deleting comments that were perceived by an overly sensitive butterfly as "uncomfortable", I will not waste my precious 30 seconds again.

Now to address the inevitable strawmans from politically passionate users: Not being offensive based on religion, sex, race, etc. is great. I dislike people trying to dominate others using those as pretext. However, users that are overly sensitive to constructive criticism need to address their issues and forcing us to make sure they feel cozy is both time consuming to us and harmful to them.


CoC also mentions avoiding terms like "ignorant". I am not a native english speaker, but isn't "ignorant" == 'lacking special knowledge or information.' Why should it be avoided?


CoC effect on recommending Stack Overflow

Does [CoC] affect your recommending Stack Overflow as a resource in any way? How so?

Currently my comments when recommending SE are:

  • Often excellent quality advice from SO and a few other SE sites.
  • Strong left-wing bias on political subjects (sometimes even in STEM fields); avoid discussing politics even in designated sites.

With CoC I will add:

  • Political correctness has reached the usual insane levels you see in every day life. Avoid politics at all costs.
  • Emphasis has switched heavily from quality to userbase-growth (if quality indeed drops)

A while ago you were warned about the political echo-chambers that are forming all over SE. Political correctness-inspired policies are alienating non left-wing even more. Perhaps you are surrounded by left-wings and you think you aren't left-wing because you are slightly more to the right. If that is the case, I don't think you'll notice the echo-chambers in time.


Finally, a tricky question:

  • How much havoc would CoC cause if you add "political beliefs" in No discrimination of any kind?
  • Would you include it in CoC? If not, why not?
  • Re: "ignorant", there's a nuance to how the word is used that you're missing. If I say that you are ignorant of or ignorant about something, that's typically inoffensive and just suggests you lack that particular piece of knowledge. But if I just describe you as ignorant without any further qualifier, it suggests that you are just generally poorly-educated and unknowledgeable; in that context it's an insult, much like calling you stupid or uncivilised. ("Ignorant" is also, weirdly, used by some leftists to mean "bigoted", but I don't think the CoC is alluding to that meaning.) – Mark Amery Jul 19 '18 at 14:30
8

The idea of a CoC is good, but your new draft is too detailed. Writing "any language likely to offend" is no more helpful than "be nice". Trying for some exhaustive list ("race, gender, blah, blah") is no more helpful than simply stating that references to personal attributes are inappropriate.

Worse, by listing all these vague-but-objectionable things, you provide ammunition for professional whiners. These clauses can and will be abused by people who want to take offense, who will attempt to weaponize your CoC against someone they dislike.

Delete needless words. Keep things simple.

  • +1'd. "you provide ammunition for professional whiners." Awesome forecast! this is going to happen! – Always Confused Aug 8 '18 at 10:21
7

Lame attempt at virtue signaling.

Anybody can be anon on SE, so I won't even spend time on isms part.

Part about becoming safe space: Life is not safe space. If you think somebody is gonna suffer because somebody told him to RTFM, wait until that person gets into fun practice of code review with real human sitting 2 meters from him.

Also there are bad questions, there are people who do not know basics about programming and it is impossible to give them introduction to C/Java/PHP in an answer.

In other words: beside hurting people in the long run mentally(safe spaces do that) I fear you will turn SE sites into heaps of junk questions that nobody closed because that would be "oppressive".

If you wanted to really improve the SE experience for newcomers you could provide them with a bit more detailed feedback wrt why their question was closed.

  • 6
    "Anybody can be anon on SE, so I won't even spend time on isms part." - this doesn't seem an adequate reason to shoot down any discussion about discrimination here. A gay in Saudi Arabia can avoid punishment by keeping their sexuality secret, but it would be an odd view to therefore argue that gays in Saudi Arabia are not oppressed. Likewise, if it's the case that some identity group - say, women - faces discriminatory treatment on Stack Overflow, it seems an inadequate response to argue this doesn't matter because they can just hide that aspect of their identity. They shouldn't have to. – Mark Amery Jul 8 '18 at 17:46
  • You are missing the point. All this sexism and oppression and you can avoid it just by changing your name to ZX40 . Ignore the ideals, let's save victims here and now. As for discrimination: it is another words that have lost meaning. It used to mean something, now it basically means: your choices I do not like. – NoSenseEtAl Jul 8 '18 at 18:51
  • 4
    @NoSenseEtAl: "All this sexism and oppression and you can avoid it just by changing your name to ZX40." Then he got your point spot on. You're saying that if someone faces discrimination, they should become anonymous to "avoid it". That's absurd. "As for discrimination: it is another words that have lost meaning." So, you declare that a word has "lost meaning." That doesn't mean it isn't still happening; it simply means you don't think it's happening. Why should your view be heeded over those who say that it hasn't "lost meaning", that it is happening? – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 0:11
  • @NicolBolas no it is not absurd. It is a perfectly valid solution to a problem(that btw does not exist, but it is hard to convince some people that it does not exist). So I gave you a cure to the "fan death". Just use it. As for discrimination: my view should be heeded over others because it is correct. Science is not a democracy, and neither is my answer. – NoSenseEtAl Jul 9 '18 at 2:53
  • 6
    @NoSenseEtAl: You genuinely don't see any problem with the idea of telling someone "if you don't want to be discriminated against, just be anonymous?" That's like saying that the solution to racism should be to develop a cheap salve that turns everyone into the same race. Or the solution to sexism is to turn everyone into the same gender and solve reproduction technologically. It's ridiculous. You solve the problem by getting rid of the jerks, not by making the jerks right. – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 3:01
  • 3
    Your problem is that you are not trying to solve the problem. You are trying to make everybody think like you are. So yes if THE ONLY problem of gays in Saudi Arabia was that they can not say on their passport/ID that they are gay I would told them to just pretend to be straight. There are real problems, and there are problems that you should ignore since they do not matter that much. – NoSenseEtAl Jul 9 '18 at 4:59
  • 3
    @NoSenseEtAl: Using your Saudi Arabia idea, straight people would be able to say that they're straight on their passport/ID without any fear of discrimination. But gay people couldn't, because they're far more likely to face such discrimination. Therefore, they don't have a choice to be anonymous at all. They can either choose to face discrimination or choose to hide who they are. Whereas straight people don't need to hide themselves. And you don't see that as being fundamentally discriminatory, when one side has their choices made for them by the intolerance of others? – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 13:56
  • 4
    @NoSenseEtAl: Everyone should have the same freedoms. If one group of people can feel free to express who they are without fear of prejudice or discrimination, then all groups should have that same freedom. And if they don't, then that's a problem with the community/culture, and that should be changed. The answer should not be "just pretend you're part of the in group even if you're not." – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 13:59
  • 2
    @NicolBolas The problem I see with your argument, is that SE is not a country, it's a help archive. 99% of the time, your race/gender/beliefs are off topic/noise, and will be erased from content. Similar to how phrases like "Thanks for your help" are stripped from questions within 5 minutes of posting. In the exceptions where your beliefs are important to the question/answer, that SE requires you to tolerate it. In the rest of the world, this would be suppression of freedom of speech. Here, it is content quality improvement. Be Nice/No Harassment cover this already, so what is left to discuss? – Tezra Jul 9 '18 at 15:16
  • 2
    @Tezra: Direct discrimination doesn't happen because someone injects some aspect of themselves into the question/answer itself. It happens primarily because someone chooses not to be anonymous: having a picture of themselves as their avatar/using their real name/having information about themselves on their profile. This is perfectly valid to do (that's why we let people pick usernames, avatars, etc), and in a reasonable community would not provoke unwanted commentary about their person. – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 15:20
  • @NicolBolas But that is rude/abusive in both the original and new CoC. Since nothing in the CoC has really changed about this, what is there to talk about as it relates to the new CoC? It may be a valid talking point, but you need a point directly related to the CoC to be relevant here, under this question/answer. – Tezra Jul 9 '18 at 15:37
  • @Tezra SE is more than just the technical sites. – apaul Jul 9 '18 at 17:54
  • @Tezra It was NoSenseEtAl's answer, not Nicol's comments, that brought up discrimination (through apophasis) as its second paragraph. I don't know whether you're right that nothing has really changed (there's some discussion in other answers about the implications of changing the word "bigotry" to "discrimination" and listing a bunch of new characteristics compared to the old Be Nice policy, and I'm ultimately unsure what the intended change in meaning is, if any), but if you are, your first beef should surely be with the answer rather than people addressing the argument that it presented. – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 20:51
  • @MarkAmery As I read it, the answer chooses not to talk about a point, and sites a very weak reason for that choice. In honesty, that line should be removed because it doesn't actually state any point (except maybe that the user has no ground to speak from on that topic) With the commentators, They raise valid points, but non that can be tied back to the CoC, or to improve the answer. Your first comment hit that point. The rest I don't think have actually contributed anything of value further. And I'll leave it at this because I think we are just doing circles now. ^^; – Tezra Jul 9 '18 at 21:43
  • @Tezra To your first sentence, that's precisely the rhetorical technique of apophasis at play. Besides dropping that link, I'll likewise leave it that. – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 22:04
7

A few thoughts :

1) The code of conduct could be more concisely worded. Many online users "skim-read"

e.g.

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.

to

Be polite and constructive when giving feedback. Tone can be misinterpreted online, so please avoid jokes and sarcasm. Be open to constructive feedback.

2) I noted there was no hyperlink where it said "follow our guidelines" (perhaps this should link to the "how to ask" page?)

3) The fact that many new users do not take the tour or read the "how to ask" page prior to asking, makes me doubtful that new users would read a Code of conduct?

4) Overall I agree that it's good to have a code of conduct, but I too would question the mission and would expect unacceptable behaviour to be listed in reverse order (to current).

5) In my experience what one person deems as "unwelcoming" varies, so what constitutes as "offensive" in my opinion needs to be clarified by the moderators.

6) It may be more helpful to use the code of conduct to highlight what "makes it easy for others to help" them (A clear explanation and providing code etc. ) rather than advising users not to worry and bringing to attention that other users may improve their question if needs-be. Minimising the need for edits would be positive.

  • 4
    +1 for point 6, which I haven't seen raised yet. If a newbie posts a bad question they cannot expect to get hand-held through improving it and ultimately walk away with their rep intact; there's a shortage of users inclined to perform such hand-holding, a good chance the question will get closed and never be reopened even if it's improved, and a good chance that even if they do get hand-held and the question stays open they'll be hammered with downvotes during the time that the question is bad. Overemphasizing improvement by the community risks setting an expectation we currently don't meet. – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 21:03
  • @MarkAmery thanks for drawing attention to this point, I do think it's important. – Rachel Gallen Jul 9 '18 at 21:06
7

Introduction

This is yet another answer about "the mission" stated on the CoC.

My first language is Spanish, I'm from México and I posted a draft of what I'm thinking to say on this answer on La propuesta del nuevo código de conducta empieza con un problema de congruencia

Tl;Dr

There is a lack on coherence between the title and the first paragraphs of the CoC R7

Explanation

The title is The Stack Exchange Network Code of Conduct, then the first paragraph says "Our mission is to build an inclusive community..."

The lack of coherence occurs because the title clearly states that document is a code of conduct but the first paragraph says "our mission...". A Code of Conduct could have a purpose or an objective but not a mission in the sense of a value proposition. Missions are for people or organizations.

Ok, it's fine if you want to use mission as a synonym of objective or purpose but please don't use the first person of plural. Besides that it makes me feel uncomfortable as I already explained on https://meta.stackexchange.com/a/312383/289691, using "our mission..." is confusing because it was not clear who are "we" and why there are several missions. The discussions on this Q&A reinforce this idea on me.

I like the point made by Mark Amery on their answer by quoting Shop9's recent comment on a chat room, actually I think that I read the same idea before.

The Stack Exchange Sites missions are to be reference sites for their topic. Asking and answering questions is the mean to achieve that.

I add to the above

Learning is a byproduct of participation on this process either by doing this actively or passively

Regarding how to modify the CoC

  • Add an introduction to describe the what, when, where, how, who of the use of CoC

    • Maybe a backlink to this Q&A is fine during the next stage but if it will be linked somewhere else like the email that I received today form Stack Overflow, consider to include enough details to answer the following:

      • Will this be part of the site tour or will they include a link to it?
      • Will be this document part of the help center or will be include on the legal section?
      • Does the Stack Exchange Inc. team working on this has name or other way to identify them?
      • How this CoC is aligned to the Stack Exchange Network mission?
      • Is the deadline of July 11th a hard or soft deadline?
      • How will be addressed the cultural and language concerns of the users of International sites that doesn't speak English?

Regarding the first paragraph, here is a example of how it could be reworded

The purpose of this CoC is to serve as a behavior framework that supports the efforts to build an inclusive community where all people feel welcome and can participate, regardless of expertise, identity, or language.

  • 3
    I like your rewritten first paragraph, and agree that explicitly stating the mission as being a reference site rather than a Q&A site suggest that one may learn via searching more effectively than by asking a duplicate question. – Edward Jul 12 '18 at 1:19
7

A text that doesn't translate cleanly will fail

Other answers have discussed a number of potential issues with how people will understand the language of the proposed text. The code of conduct is supposed to be read by millions of users and help them behave better. Most of them, while reading the text, will mentally translate it to their own native language or locale. If a word or expression doesn't translate cleanly, this means that in practice SE will be operating under dozens or hundreds of different codes of conduct.

Professional help to let all English speakers understand the text

Solutions for this problem exist, if you're serious about this effort and you put your money where your mouth is. Hire professional experienced translators to translate the text to your top 10, 20 or 50 target locales (including English variants!). Ask them to include comments about the expressions which translate poorly, and suggestions of alternative English expressions which would be clearer. Rewrite the original text using those expressions which maximise translatability. Just remove the concepts which cannot be translated well in a significant number of languages.

This is what OECD does for its PISA tests. Of course that's a very expensive program, but you can pick your own size. If you have an extremely limited budget, try at least 2-3 languages of different families.

If your real audience is another, be explicit

I can also understand if you prefer to have a legalistic text which will be understood only by few persons, but will help them do what you expect. If so, be explicit and make sure that this smaller population understand the text.

If this text is meant as a guide for staffers and moderators when they decide how to moderate content and suspend users, call it a moderation guideline that they have to understand and follow. Even if you don't have resources to let all users understand it fully, you can state that you're releasing it for everyone to read for the sake of transparency.

  • 2
    Consider to pick the languages of International SO sites as most of them are from different language families: Russian, Japanese, Spanish/Portuguese – Rubén Jul 16 '18 at 15:48
6

I think the word 'nice' has a different connotation these days (i.e. nice = polite and therefore when you don't agree then a lot of passive aggressive behaviour comes out), but in its original meaning I do believe that it covers all the things that the current CoC mentions.

I feel like in the past being nice (in a gentlemanly or lady-like manner) involves:

  • Being honest - say what you believe and believe in what you say
  • Being respectful - you don't have to agree with people but you should respect their honesty
  • Being considerate - realizing that we all have a role to play in helping each other and the community to make this a great place for learning and sharing
  • Being positive - try to find the good side to things and turn risks and challenges into opportunities

If that's still what being nice means, then I think nothing needs to change in the CoC. But I guess the fact that there is a perceived need to add to it means that the meaning is not the same. However, I think it is still important to retain the 'Be Nice' mantra to remind ourselves of where we were and why we need to move forward.

  • 4
    The irony with this is of course that in a gentlemanly or lady-like manner in and of itself might be percieved as discriminatory by those with non binary gender expressions. I think the paragraph about discrimination needs a bit of work in the face of vastly differing cultural expectations and norms of the many users of the network. – Magisch Jul 4 '18 at 7:31
  • @Magisch the discrimination (or perception thereof) towards those with non binary gender expressions is unintneded :p I merely wanted to illustrate the point that what we refer to as being nice in the past is probably not the same as what it means now. – Michael Lai Jul 4 '18 at 12:48
  • I was referring to the paragraph in the CoC, not in your answer. – Magisch Jul 4 '18 at 12:50
6

No discrimination of any kind. This includes any language likely to offend or alienate people based on (but not limited to): race, gender, gender identity or expression, English fluency, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, nationality, neurodiversity, physical appearance, body size, or religion.

Please add 'political orientation' and 'religion (or lack of belief in any religion)' to this list.

  • Political orientation and religious orientation might actually be relevant on some SE sites though involving those subjects. So that might need to be thought about a bit more before adding. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 14:02
  • 1
    @TheGreatDuck 'Political orientation and religious orientation might actually be relevant' - yes, it's relevant but discrimination based on it is also relevant? E.g., on a certain SE site for religion, one user said something like 'this fool [Richard] Dawkins...' in comments and my flag to edit/delete the comment was declined. If one's religion cannot be ridiculed on any of the SE sites, I thought one's lack of religion shouldn't be either. As for political orientation, I'm not sure one can use terms like wingnut, libtard, etc. Anyway, I will leave it to the community mods to decide. – sv. Jul 9 '18 at 3:52
  • 4
    I agree it's harmful to mention religion without mentioning lack of religion. There's no need to give privileges to religious people. – Nemo Jul 16 '18 at 7:09
6

0 tolerance policies are always an easy solution to complex situations ("No discrimination!" makes it clear you don't support genocides), but they almost never work well ("No discrimination!" makes it hard to justify discriminating later, for example on the basis of content quality or a history of repeated bad behavior without undermining the legitimacy of the policy).

Instead, consider "We do not tolerate hate speech, and we know it when we see it". What you actually want to stop is people doing the evil thing that is like racism and sexism and stuff, and while that's called 'discrimination' without any qualifiers often enough it's reasonable to consider that a normal use of language, lots of other, totally fine, things are properly called 'discrimination', too, and that's a problem for a rule (c.f. "No electronic devices in the classroom"). For example, downvoting a post is discriminating against the position(s) expressed in it, and that's okay. Some positions are better than others and nothing evil is done in evaluating that a post is wrong and acting upon that judgment. The bad things happen when we discriminate between people as if they were somehow more or less valuable because they were dark-skinned or rich or female or identify as nonbinary or have thirteen kids or Catholic or wrong or have a different rpg playstyle from us or whatever.

It's the people and the value bit that's important, though, not the deciding one things better than another. We can't ban discriminating everywhere all the time with everything and actually mean it and be Stack Exchange cause then we can't upvote or downvote posts, or flag offensive content, or do basically anything that involves sorting or categorizing user-provided content. We can totally ban 'hate speech', though, and we should do so. And it fixes the problem, cause no one uses 'hate speech' to mean anything other than exactly what sort of thing we want to ban.

6

I think what the code of conduct is missing is a sense of collaboration. We want people to be collaborative in solving on-topic problems (with apologies to Code Golf.SE, Puzzling.SE, etc.), not antagonistic. Both questioners and answerers need to meet each other halfway. Behaviour that deviates from this should be discouraged.

The draft Code of Conduct is about the individual, where it should be about communities or teams of people, even if that's only two people. Perhaps something like the following:

Stack Exchange works when two or more people come together to solve a specific, well-defined problem, and fails if you or another person are not sincere or respectful.

The Code of Conduct should focus on collaboration, and everything else is off-topic or just distracting. Certainly, offensive behaviour should be flagged and dealt with as quickly as possible.

A user's religion, gender, race, etc. is off-topic on Stack Exchange, and has the potential to be considered offensive or abusive. Be considerate of others' feelings.

Just about the one thing we all have in common is that we all make mistakes and are fallible. We shouldn't be punished for honest mistakes, or for having a grumpy day. It happens to the best of us! There should be four levels of moderator action (not three):

  1. Minor off-topic, unoffensive noise - silent content deletion (no warning issued)
  2. Major, repeat off-topic, unoffensive noise; minor offensive comment - warning (and content deletion)
  3. Major or repeat offensive comment - account suspension
  4. Demonstrated lack of willingness to improve behaviour - account termination

What we're against is disruptive behaviour. If you don't disrupt the site, everything is fine. If you do disrupt the site, you may have actions taken against your account (not you personally) for minor disruptions, and you WILL have actions taken against your account for major disruptions.

There also needs to be a sense of common sense when the moderators are involved, and it shouldn't matter which moderator deals with an issue, there should be accord as to the proper course of action. This implies that moderators should be "reasonable" people, but even moderators have bad days.

  • I kind of like the idea, aesthetically, of framing Stack Overflow's process as one in which an asker and answerers collaboratively create a resource of use to future readers. I'm not sure whether that framing makes much difference to anything in the CoC, though. As for your four levels of moderation action, they're actually all already in the CoC; it's just that only 1, 3, and 4 appear in the examples, and only 2, 3 and 4 appear in the diagram above the examples - a weird inconsistency that others have commented on already. – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 9:16
  • Minor detail, but in the case of Sock Puppets, mods will take action against you personally (to the extent of banning all of your accounts) – Tezra Jul 9 '18 at 14:24
  • For the record, users on Puzzling.SE do commonly collaborate to provide a high-quality answer to a question. – GentlePurpleRain Jul 10 '18 at 18:21
  • @GentlePurpleRain What I meant is that they're not there to solve problems, but to have fun. A riddle is mentally stimulating but won't prevent you from achieving anything except solving the riddle. – Cool Fool Jul 10 '18 at 21:10
  • I'm afraid "religion, gender, race etc" is not off-.topic on SE in general. Just browse IPS.SE for example. And I guess Christianity.SE would be empty, too. I know it feels that way when you use the programming related sites, but the focus has shifted slightly. – nvoigt Jul 17 '18 at 15:07
  • @nvoigt Of course it's off-topic! Otherwise non-Christians wouldn't be able to use Christianity.SE, etc. – Cool Fool Jul 17 '18 at 22:29
6

A small one: "Expulsion from Stack Overflow" in the table, should probably say something along the lines of "Expulsion from the Stack Exchange in question", since with over 90 beta sites now, there are some people that don't know what Stack Overflow is! If what was meant by "Expulsion from Stack Overflow" was actually the much harsher statement of "Expulsion from the Stack Exchange Network", then it should say so.

Since this is a code of conduct, I would recommend that it is made written somewhere, perhaps even in an appendix, what exactly would allow for "Expulsion from the Stack Exchange Network" to be enforced, just like referees are given specific circumstances in which they are to issue red cards, and judges are bound to specific laws regarding what sentences they can issue. This will ensure that no one is permanently expelled in error.

  • 1
    I think it means expulsion from the entire network, not a specific site. The company name is technically "Stack Overflow" and, particularly internally, refers to the whole network, not just the site stackoverflow.com. So, adjusting it to read "The Stack Exchange Network" would be the appropriate equivalent. – Catija Jul 14 '18 at 2:25
  • 5
    That is absolutely what it should say then! "The Stack Exchange Network" ! – user1271772 Jul 14 '18 at 3:30
5

In the point about flagging

Flag the harmful content. Depending on the content, flagging will alert moderators or trigger an automatic deletion.

Could you clarify whether or not a "Rude or abusive" flag will always be appropriate for content that breaches the code of conduct? And perhaps link the code of conduct from the flag UI. Using/validating "Rude or abusive" as opposed to "No longer needed" is a slight negative mark against the user so it's worth having clear expectations on all sides about when it is appropriate.

  • Also, would Rude or Abusive Red flags be appropriate for answers that contain slightly condescending statements? For example, "You could have easily found this information by reading a basic C++ book, but the answer is...." The last time I checked, we were supposed to just silently edit out the inappropriate stuff. – Robert Columbia Jul 5 '18 at 1:18
4

No subtle put-downs [...] "You could google this in 5 seconds" is a subtle put-down

In that case could we get a flag for questions like that?

  • 5
    Actually I would classify that as non-subtle :) – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 10:38
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    @DavidPostill And I wouldn't classify it as a put-down. It's a friendly reminder to use one of the most basic tools before spamming a community. People here are just being weird about it. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:05
  • 1
    @SteffenWinkler It's definitely not friendly. But it is sometimes necessary, particularly if a user shows a pattern of repeatedly asking tripe without any research. A friendly version will not condescendingly note that googling the problem is a very obvious and elementary thing to do. I'm quite sure that when you tell a friend to do some research, you don't emphasize the fact that they messed up by not checking things out properly first. – user392547 Jul 4 '18 at 11:11
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    @SteffenWinkler It's definitely not friendly. You have to realise that not everybody has expert level google-fu. A better and more friendly comment would be something like "if you google with {this search string} you will find some helpful links that you can use to clarify your question and/or guide you towards an answer. Remember that some people (more so in the case of non-native English speakers) may not know the right words (terminology) to search with. Teach a man to fish is perhaps the best summary I can give as to why the approach of asking for a new flag may not be the best one. – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 11:14
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    @Chair to me anything that isn't outright hostile is friendly. I guess you belong to the people that have it the other way around? Nothing wrong with that, I just find it weird. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:14
  • A new flag to close isn't going to help the OP in any way. – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 11:16
  • 1
    @DavidPostil see I would consider half of that as null-speak. There is no information transferred. It makes it harder to read and skim over if it's part of a comment chain. I agree that in some cases adding appropriate search terms to the comment is helpful or necessary. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:19
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    Yes it helps the OP. It's giving a fish vs. teaching to fish all over again. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:20
  • 1
    The only part in the comment would be "if you google with {this search string} you will find some helpful links that you can use to clarify your question and/or guide you towards an answer." The rest was explaining why I think that way. – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 11:21
  • @SteffenWinkler One can always add How To Use Google To Search to the comment :) – DavidPostill Jul 4 '18 at 11:23
  • "You could find an answer using search terms x,y,z". I do concede that the 5 seconds thing in the example is null-speak as well. Sorry. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:23
  • 1
    Regarding the link, I'm pretty sure that would count as a put-down as well. – Steffen Winkler Jul 4 '18 at 11:25
  • What you should do is close the question as unclear. If we assume good faith, you must be misunderstanding the question if it's solved in a 5 second Google search, since obviously using Google didn't solve the user's problem. That means that you're unable to find the actual core issue in the question, and presumably other site members are as well, so it should be closed until the OP can clarify – the dark wanderer Jul 7 '18 at 18:21
  • 1
    @thedarkwanderer That is a horrible idea. Going under that pretense is just going to confuse the asker. Questions should only be closed as unclear when they actually do not make sense when reading them. Good faith does not assume one did research. Good faith assumes that they actually want the question answered or at least believe it will reasonable for this site. It does not mean that the user checked google. Closing as too basic or something like that would be far more applicable and we have close reasons for that. – The Great Duck Jul 8 '18 at 13:40
4

Generally I think the Code is reasonable. However:

  1. If the code is for the whole SE network, it's odd that (on p 3) it refers specifically to Stack Overflow.

  2. The No Discrimination section might also refer to country. On Economics SE, many questions relate to particular countries, and some (in my experience invariably relating to the US) fail to specify which country. The likely reason is that people simply do not realise that SE is an international site. Nevertheless, not being from the US I find this somewhat alienating.

  • Serious question: are you going to use the Code of Conduct against people who don't add a country tag to their questions, especially when most of them omit it out of ignorance, not malice? (For what it's worth, if we must have a list, I support adding country to the list of things we shouldn't discriminate based on, because I've seen some anti-Indian animus on Stack Overflow. But I think your concern is better dealt with with site policy instead of bringing out the big Code gun.) – Jeffrey Bosboom Jul 9 '18 at 19:27
  • @JeffreyBosboom The Code includes options for Reporting and Enforcement. One is Address Directly, which would include a comment asking the OP to identify the country. I agree that in this case heavy-handed action such as deletion of a question would be inappropriate except possibly for repeated instances. I see inclusion in the Code as not just about providing a basis for enforcement, but also about making people (or at least those who read it) aware of issues that they may not have considered but are of concern to others - as the question puts it, to "set behavioural expectations and norms". – Adam Bailey Jul 9 '18 at 21:21
3

This seems very clear and reasonable, standards we all ideally will have adopted from childhood. The CoC is a signal that SE/SO is trying to reach out to new users -- maybe there are growing pains but that is ok, and maybe even a good thing. But I am a newbie and thus perhaps somewhat biased in that direction.

Are there any instances where you'd suggest alternate language or copy? Where? Why?

"...and don't worry if others suggest changes or edit your question -" This is great, but it is a good opportunity to manage a new user's expectations more:

"...and don't worry WHEN others suggest changes or edit your question"

"Others WILL suggest changes or edit your question."

"Others WILL suggest changes or polish up your question."

The uniqueness of SO is what makes it both so charming and so difficult to maintain: there is no other site out there quite like SO, therefore new users have no frame of reference for the, ahem, experience that awaits them after they post. Yes, I know the asking page tells you how to ask a better question, but by now everyone has embraced the reality that most people just skim that page because they are so used to skimming posting guidelines on other sites (some like @Lundin, who answered that such people are rude, seem to prefer to ignore this reality and rail against it) Such new users have absolutely no idea that 10 or 15 people are waiting to swoop in on a new post to grammatically, syntactically, and academically critique and deconstruct. So when the newbie gets back to read their answer and sees, not only NO answer, but that their question has been all marked up and edited, they are surprised/irritated because they were not AT ALL expecting it. I think if you manage those expectations a bit more, the initial shock will be greatly reduced -- first impressions are so huge.

I read the asking guidelines the first time and foolishly thought I had understood them, but it had to be experienced before I understood more deeply. Same goes for downvotes because new users DO NOT EXPECT to be downvoted. Remember, their only frame of reference is most likely netiquette-related likes/dislikes. (see answer by @k0pernikus “Do I break the guideline of being supportive by downvoting a question of a first-time poster? I don't consider it very welcoming to receive a bunch of downvotes on your first question, yet the high standards for content made the platform as successful as it is today” – basically you WILL be downvoted, and being prepared for it will help.)

Because people don't read all docs before proceeding, seeing the CoC as another eyeball opportunity, and then giving it a tone suggesting SE/SO does not work the way most other sites work, might be worth considering. Perhaps add an eye-catching phrase like 'SE - Where Persnickety = Points!', and link it back to the guidelines.

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?

I won't ask any more questions on SO despite this new CoC, unless maybe I am extremely desperate. But if most new users feel like me, eventually SO will only be an archive of old stuff.

I'm reminded of a case where a judge cried while reluctantly sentencing a young conscientious objector to prison because the letter of law didn't provide any alternative civilian service -- I feel a glimmer of hope that folks will start adhering not just to the letter of the law asking/answering, but more importantly the spirit. But it's only a glimmer, because the incentives for points remain with adhering strictly to the exact letter of the law (and I don't yet see any way around that, short of creating a new votes structure with "reluctant downvote," "downvote with extreme prejudice," "pity upvote," etc., but that would certainly be a slippery slope!) My overall perception of the site is that the vibe is changing from 'Younger Spock' who was too serious, towards 'Seasoned Spock' who didn't rigidly cleave to logic and was more fun.

  • "the incentives for points remain with adhering strictly to the exact letter of the law" ... huh? You don't get "points" for downvoting, voting to close, or commenting. You get points for answering questions that attract upvotes. So someone who is solely interested in "points" will not downvote things, not vote to close. They will answers everything they possibly could. – Nicol Bolas Jul 9 '18 at 0:19
  • @nicolbolas I meant incentives for being the first one to edit grammar, syntax, links in questions and the general scoring structure. – Z Kubota Jul 14 '18 at 15:17
3

How about

  1. Be nice

  2. Understand that there are people here from many different cultures. They may say something that sounds offense in your culture but isn't offense in theirs. And recognize that they aren't necessarily trying to be mean.

Or, in other words: "Try not to offend anyone, and try not to be offended".

2

A few things to share and suggest:

Disclosure, my perspective is that of a frequent lurker on the Java and c++ forums.

It's a good thing to try and improve the rules, so kudos for trying this, but let's also be pragmatic and "careful what we wish for."

Your original history, suggests that the initial site policy was not wrong, or initially inadequate; it observes that : a) it did not scale when the community ceased to be the original group with existing relationships. b) the attempts to tweak it were largely overwhelmed by the effects of massive growth.

Perhaps there is (in reality) no adequate solution for larger scales, that does not impose so many restrictions that it must also destroy the primary benefits. Just because we want there to be an answer to a question, does not mean the solution exists. Example of such a fallacy: What is the programs/projects % complete? See CM*

So, rather than seek a "one size fits all scales" policy, perhaps a solution is to allow the self-formation of smaller communities, wherein the growth of real (as opposed to "'virtual") relationships can form. Where new seekers after knowledge, can find a path to the community that best matches their needs, level of understanding, and encourages actual relationships.

Humans, being what we are ( ignoring the politically correct euphemisms and wishful thinking for just a moment ), treat others with the level of effort, respect, and encouragement we each think the others own efforts deserve. Our gifts, (in the form of responses to questions) are directly proportional to that implicit assessment, YMMV.

Given that trust and respect must be earned, which may take a long time, it follows that any such community will need time and opportunity to get to know one another.

Communities with civility and trust may form much more quickly, and effectively, when the qualities can be attached to a real person, someone to care about, rather than an abstract handle, chosen on a whim. My nom-de-plume, for instance, is ShinyPixel, a common and annoying defect in a digital display, who could love that?

Suggestion: Encourage and enable small groups, (like the original community) with shared backgrounds and interests, and allow them to moderate in/out others that meet their criteria. Sure, maintain some generic and over-arching levels of legality, decency, neutrality and all the many other (insert the latest zeitgeist)'ys you need. But don't expect them to be identical in all ways, permit a diversity of each community and promote shared trust and civility.

Technically, and speaking only about my preferences, most of the answers focus too much on competing for syntax and expressions in code, rather than the underlying Idioms, an unofficial online "debug to correctness race", kicked off by each posted question.

The idioms, algorithm, and concepts the questioner generally needs to learn, to find a pragmatic solution to their problem may be omitted or unstated. The result is a stream of random code suggestions get posted, for people who haven't done their homework, which is, IMHO, unproductive and wastes the good will of contributors. See JB* Foreword, for a much more perspicuous definition of "customary and effective usage."

Finally, and then I will return to lurking: may I respectfully suggest checking out Confident pluralism, by John D. Inazu, 2016. A recent and highly readable tome that addresses the topic of "Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference" JI*

Best wishes to all, and thanks for the many answers, past, present, and future.

ShinyPixel.

References:

  • JB* Effective Java Third Edition. Joshua Bloch. 2018
  • CM* Extraordinary popular delusions and the Madness of crowds. Charles Mackay LL.D. 1852
  • JI* Confident Pluralism. John D. Inazu. 2016
  • Hmm, I'm not sure what exactly you're suggesting with "Encourage and enable small groups". It's entirely possible to only review (or browse the site) within a single tag (or several). However, it's not beneficial for everyone to do this, since that means that low-quality content could fly under the radar. – Laurel Jul 7 '18 at 18:20
  • 1
    "Just because we want there to be an answer to a question, does not mean the solution exists." Wisdom is there. – Ben Jul 7 '18 at 22:05
2

I see this as an example of broader issues with certain styles of codes-of-conduct, so here are the issues I see with it in long-form (I am not a regular on StackOverflow though, I just follow someone prominent on Twitter who works there; adjust your "how much I care" scale suitably with that understanding)

Inspiration: We'd like your feedback on our new Code of Conduct!

I first note:

  • Implementing policies like this will exclude some people, make others uncomfortable, and make others more comfortable
  • That is true of all other policies too
  • It is not possible to please everyone, or even avoid making some groups deeply uncomfortable
  • Wading into this is messy

I have two large issues and one smaller issue with this proposed policy:

  1. It is unnecessarily restrictive
  2. It would culturally align StackOverflow with censorious elements of the far political left to the exclusion of leftists that are not aligned with that strand, centrists, and right-leaning people
  3. It makes operating with integrity impossible by commanding people to apologize in certain circumstances. A commanded apology is not an apology and should never be demanded or given

In the first

I believe it is desirable that excluding people or behaviour from a community should be done as lightly as possible. Unnecessary guidance and rules starve a culture of natural diversity, and do so in a fashion that's usually not-upfront (it is impossible to get most people to read an EULA), waiting for people to have a bad day and get unexpected and unnecessary pushback from moderators on something (whereupon they'll leave or be booted). Sometimes people are grumbly or less-than-friendly. Unless they go hard in the other direction, they're still capable of providing good advice, even in that mood.

In the second

the use of "likely to offend or alienate" combined with the list of areas of difference leads to expansive coverage of concerns of liberals. Some of these easily conflict (religion with any of the rest, it being the sole broader concern), and many are not areas where there is a broad societal consensus (e.g. body size, mental illness/neurodiversity, or even gender/gender identity/gender expression) that these should be barred. Very broad interpretation leads to extensive censorship of common language, leaving only a hyperconscious "woke" kind of liberal, or others who do not mind others considering their views unacceptable, comfortable in the space. Without more clarity or limitation, inconsistent application is very likely unless there is an internal guide for moderators that goes into more detail. Even outside these social justice topics, someone asking "how do I block all access to my content on a service from people in China?", a potentially reasonable thing to do for some services if the signal-noise ratio or market focus leads that way, potentially may face sanction. Some of the communities that claim to represent particulars in these categories are themselves almost uniformly radical and are very easy to offend; importing their judgement is a bad idea.

In the third

it suggests if someone is said to make someone else uncomfortable, they should apologise and move on. Uncomfortable situations will and should happen often in life if people are to have diverse perspectives in lives. The usual way people deal with discomfort is to ignore it or blow off steam elsewhere. This traditional perspective allows for far more diversity than requiring speech be sanitised, allowing people to be deeply uncomfortable with each others views while coexisting. A policy aiming to squash this diversity (either in speech or in actuality) is, as I have argued in 2, flawed, but requiring apology is to ask people to express regret for who they are. This is unacceptable.

How to fix the proposed policy:

  • Never demand an apology or offer rewards for one. No apology can be real in that circumstance, and it limits people from offering a real apology if they choose
  • Don't demand people be near your notion of their best, just look to restrain the worst
  • Focus primarily on reasonable interpretations of intent, looking to give people a time out (and eventually the boot) if they appear to be aiming to get a rise out of people rather than advancing discussion or some other (leave this unspecified) acceptable social end
  • Keep enforcement visible - hide content (but let people get to it) or mark it as acceptable, so people can trust and verify that the moderators are not misbehaving (or too politically radical to make acceptable decisions). Do not undo this if people end up making third-party sites to analyse moderator behavior (Wikipedia has some shadow sites that review admins and have people let off steam about them; this is healthy even as much of the content on some of them is not)
  • Commit to evaluative standards that lean against enforcement except in the most clear of cases
  • Ensure political radicals are not mods (particularly those into Critical Theory, as they have an incredibly broad notion of oppression and no commitment to diversity in expression - these lead them into poor judgement)
  • If some discussions are too destructive, ban entire topics of discussion rather than perspectives within them

There may be additional ways to encourage good behavior, such as having profile badges for being friendly, good-to-work-with, concise, and having other personality features that mark a good poster (beyond the existing rough-grained feature).

  • 2
    FWIW, I see no good reason that the content of that Google doc couldn't just be inlined in an answer. All the formatting you use there - titles, numbered lists, bulleted lists - is supported by Stack Exchange's markdown, and I'm not sure it'd even be the longest post on this page. – Mark Amery Jul 9 '18 at 8:54
  • Mark: Fair, and Tezra has demonstrated this is true. – Pat Gunn Jul 9 '18 at 19:27
2

My first language is Spanish; I'm from México. I have being participating actively on several Stack Exchange Network (SEN) sites for years, and I still found the use of "we" and "our" weird, the first person plural, when someone is talking about the SEN workings. The same happens with the CoC wording.

When I read "our mission...", "our expectations..." my first impression is that someone from a very closed group is talking and that I'm not being welcomed. I will feel more comfortable if the wordings use the third person neuter.


Below is an example of what I meant by the third person neuter could be applied.


Our mission The Stack Exchange Network Code of Conduct 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 the Stack Exchange Network Community in building a learning community that is rooted in kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect.

We commit The Stack Exchange Community, for now on the Community, is committed to enforcing and improving the this Code of Conduct. It applies to everyone using the Stack Exchange network, including our team the Stack Exchange Inc. employees, moderators, and anyone posting to our Q&A site to the Stack Exchange Network Q&A sites or chat rooms.

Our expectations The Community expectations

  • If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming. Learning how to participate in our community the Community can be daunting, especially if someone is new. Be supportive while others are learning.

...


  • What should we use? “The Stack Exchange community...”? – Tim Jul 9 '18 at 21:08
  • 3
    There is no "neuter" in English... we can use plural, which is what is used in the first person version, as you note, but the only non-gender-specific for third person is plural... additionally, for standard English, using third person "their mission" or "their expectations" makes it sound like the person writing the content is not part of the group at all, for example, if someone on the outside were to be talking about SE, they'd use "they". Could you specifically rephrase things in a way that makes sense to you so that it's more clear what you're suggesting? – Catija Jul 9 '18 at 21:08
  • @Tim: Yes, "The Stack Exchange community" and maybe include "for now on the Community" – Rubén Jul 9 '18 at 21:43
  • @Catija: I took the term neuter from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person – Rubén Jul 9 '18 at 21:44
  • @Catija: In the mean time that I wrote some examples for this answer, here and here there are a couple of "contribution drafts" that I made in Spanish. The first has a stronger relationship with this answer. – Rubén Jul 9 '18 at 21:53
  • 1
    But "it" isn't appropriate in that situation... "Its mission" or "Its expectations" is an odd way of phrasing this. It has the same problem as "their"... it makes the writer outside the network. This sort of document (in English) is nearly always written in first person, using "our". For example, the Django CoC: djangoproject.com/conduct "Our" is pretty standard practice... now, when translating it for non-English sites, I'm guessing that this is an important consideration but, in English, I think the current phrasing is correct. – Catija Jul 9 '18 at 21:53
  • I know that my answer implies a greater effort than just making a "find and replace" :) Bear in mind that the OP said that is open to feedback on a broad sense and that this isn't a feature-request. – Rubén Jul 9 '18 at 21:55
  • @Tim I added an example of how could be applied of what I meant by the third person neuter as an attempt to be clearer. – Rubén Jul 9 '18 at 23:19
  • The Spanish language carries more weight on words than English does. I don't think this kind of change is helpful in the least. The fact that you are here speaking your mind on the matter is proof enough that you are included in the conversation. Please keep in mind that the wording is not "exclusive" in any way. They are simply referring to Stack Exchange as a whole when they use words like "we" and "our". Its actually very inclusive and to change it to something more "neutral" would make it sound robotic and less inviting. – Mike - SMT Jul 18 '18 at 13:04
  • 1
    To a native English speaker, the way the CoC is currently worded is more inclusive and more natural than your suggested changes. That said, it's worth considering if there might be a third possibility that allows native and non-native English speakers to understand the connotations a little better. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 19 '18 at 5:50
1

First of all, THANK YOU for using a comma before "and" in every list of three or more items. (We shall overcome the goofy rule that says to omit it!)

Second of all, this is a dynamite document, but I'm not sure if everybody will read it. (How will they find it?) Everybody should, just as everybody should read the agreements that they routinely agree to without reading at so many web sites (a personal sin).

But if they DO read it, you're coming through clearly, loud and clear. (Loudly and clearly??) In short, “act professionally with empathy” is the behavior they will realize is expected.

I recommend a few changes:

(1) If your point of using "yourself" is for emphasis, you should use "you yourself" in the second sentence under "Reporting and Enforcement". Using "yourself" in the current context is not gramatically correct. There’s no such problem under “Chat” where you say “whether it’s directed at you or others”, but saying “you yourself” for emphasis could be good.

(2) I like “but isn’t limited to” wherever it’s used and wonder if it needs to be added anywhere, such as under “Account suspension” before the word “harassment”.

(3) It could be better to “open link in new tab” for the links “Flag” and “Contact us”.

(4) I really like “not because we expect misconduct”—you have definitely articulated and reinforced "the high level of respect our community expects”, but in the last sentence in that paragraph, I think a comma between “culture” and “should” could improve intent a bit. (Note: I certainly understood your point without the suggested comma.)

(5) THANK YOU for saying that “’You could Google this in 5 seconds’ is a subtle put-down.” I’m not sure it’s “subtle”, though! (I’ve never taken such as subtle, no matter its context!)

(6) Where you say “If the behavior escalates, disengage immediately -- staff or moderators will take action,” should you add “if you will flag the content”?

BTW/FWIW: This is the first I’ve heard of “sock puppet voting”. Thanks for the link and the education. I guess the intent is clear. What I certainly don’t know is just how prevalent it is at SO. Obviously more than tolerable. (I’m so naïve.)

Here is a response to "If you're someone who wants to contribute more often ... how does this document change your perception of the site, if at all?"

My personality (and experience) has made me somewhat fearful of posting questions because of the put-downs directed at them/me that, over time, I've become apprehensive about receiving. I've posted quite a few questions: a few, very good based on up-votes received; some definitely not as good. I have decided not to post quite a few, too, hoping to figure it out myself, which I usually eventually did. And if I didn't, I had tried enough things to include in the Question that I asked it anyway, with a rare put-down. (Same applies to Answers, though the put-downs are relatively rare. I post this "Answer" with similar trepidation, context notwithstanding. However, the new Code says my attitude should be along the lines of "Ask the question, bridgekeeper; I am not afraid!" where the bridgekeeper is my personality!)(Working on it.)

Continuing my response, my personality also has caused me to respond inappropriately ("angrily" or "sarcastically" would be good adjectives in this context) to a few comments and Answers in which I felt "attacked". It's clear that I gotta rein that in. (Done.)

However, I'm gonna have a hard time reining in jokes in comments and Answers. Ya gotta laugh sometimes. (I'm sure I can make clear the humor intended.)

Thanks for the CoC. As I've indicated, it's definitely needed. I wish the moderators good luck in enforcing it. I more wish the members good luck in following it.

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