You provided us with some really helpful feedback on our first draft attempt to expand our 'Be nice' policy into a formal code of conduct, and we're extremely grateful for your time, patience and insights. This was not an easy discussion to have and we are extremely proud of the civility and insight that everyone brought to the table.

We'd also like to thank the folks who took time to provide us with insight off the stage and out of the spotlight through email, in-person interviews, surveys and other research channels. Your voices were positively critical in forming a well-balanced code that aims to represent all reasonable needs.

Together, you helped us to form a Code of Conduct that reinforces our expectations of civility, charitable intent, mutual respect for individual feelings and the emotional labor that helping strangers entails, and our commitment to always learn and improve.

Please, have a look at the second draft (Google Doc), and tell us what you think.

There are some notes that we'd like everyone to keep in mind:

Major changes to the document have settled.

Based on hundreds of hours of feedback (on both your part and our part), we've incorporated all major changes that we felt strengthened the document and ensured that it met as many needs as possible. At this point, we're considering all major construction done - what we're looking for are things like small sentence tweaks, accidental loopholes, grammar fixes, opportunities for brevity, and similar improvements.

Any feedback that needs to be evaluated prior to the new CoC being implemented must be posted on or (ideally) prior to Friday, July 27, 2018.

This document is designed to evolve.

Implementation doesn't preclude improvement, it just means that we have to arrive at a point that looks sound enough to test in the real world for a while, and then see what (if anything) needs to be changed.

We will be opening periodic surveys to solicit feedback on the efficacy of the CoC, and will make adjustments based on the results. Similarly, you can suggest improvements to the CoC by creating a or with the tag to raise any concern. Please open all discussions here, on Meta Stack Exchange, so that everyone interested can find them in one place.

Try not to worry, well, not too much.

In case you didn't hear us, we're extremely proud of you, and thankful that we've even gotten to this point. We want to make sure that we remain a relevant tool that our kids will use one day, and we know that we will.

Teachers have to talk to everyone in the class, even those sitting at the front looking annoyingly over their shoulders at the concealed spit-ball launching arsenal behind them; I learned that in my second year of college.

When you're speaking to something like a code of conduct, you must be extremely clear, it applies to everyone, and we're not making any exceptions.

With that said, we don't expect most folks reading this to find themselves in a precarious place due to enforcement; the worst most might expect is seeing a hastily-written comment that was uncharacteristically insensitive removed unceremoniously by a moderator in flag-processing mode.

You're here talking to us because you care - these aren't easy conversations to have and we get that. You, the folks that put a sincere effort into helping us shape this code are the people that understand why it's so important to embrace the intent of the document, and the ones most likely to learn from mistakes, however unlikely they might be.

The need for this stinks, but embracing it sends a strong signal that we care about everyone enough to commit to not being demeaning and honestly listening to them if they feel like we got that wrong. While that might sound trivial, like something we do every day, it's a major thing for an online community of this size to achieve.

Over to you.

See anything? Let us know. Do you have further questions? Let us know. Please be respectful, try not to assume the worst in folks, and keep in mind that having these kinds of problems is also a sign of lots of other stuff going right - let's not lose sight of that.

Thank all of you again, so much, for your time and patience here. I'm not sure what yet, but we're going to have some kind of decompression festival once this all gets put in place.

  • 45
    A common question I've seen: Do you expect anything to change in day-to-day moderation? Is this intended to change behavior, or just codify the rules we already enforce?
    – Undo
    Jul 19, 2018 at 16:41
  • 48
    @Undo This just codifies the rules that we already use, moderation is still at the discretion of the individual moderators, and we've clarified that in this revision.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 19, 2018 at 16:43
  • 6
    @YvetteColomb See sentence right above the "Try not to worry, well, not too much." header
    – Undo
    Jul 19, 2018 at 16:45
  • 17
    @Dragonrage I'm not sure the SE network gets any welcoming by punishing chatty chat puns with 30 minute chat bans. So I wasn't sure.
    – Mast
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:26
  • 8
    The caution about joking is more strongly linked with jokes that are touching on subjects that are sensitive, @Mast . I've been in many chat discussions and explosions that were centered around someone flagging a joke that was taken out of context... and the problem there isn't the person lacking context, it's that the joke is about something that is a sensitive subject to others and probably better suited to a private chat off site.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:33
  • 15
    @Mast the sway some people have in meta. A post with no downvotes and then there's one comment, misunderstanding the posts intent and wording it in a way to derail, rather than clarify, and then all the downvotes pour in. I hate it. There's no chance to rectify, clarify or explain. There's a condemning comment and that's it. There's many aspects of meta I really dislike.
    – user310756
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:52
  • 10
    @YvetteColomb If it offers you some comfort... I've been in a similar situation on MSO. My answer was nicely gathering upvotes... then Jon Skeet (himself!) commented and only appeared to disagree. Suddenly it started raining downvotes and no amount of explanation seemed to help. It's indeed not a pleasant thing... but you're not alone, I think many of us have been there at one time or another. Jul 19, 2018 at 18:14
  • 8
    Why did you put an image in the GitHub PDF instead of a proper PDF file with text in it? Jul 19, 2018 at 18:17
  • 14
    @Mast Puns should be dealt with harsh punishment. Jul 20, 2018 at 1:16
  • 6
    As I commented on a loss of trust in the last update. I would like to just say that this post (and the changes) feels like a step in the right direction to me - and I hope others. I'm still worried about how it will applied to chat (see @AndrasDeak comment above) and SE as a whole but the tone of the post and changes made in light of the feedback, really help to reassure about SE's direction.
    – LinkBerest
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:01
  • 43
    You could Google this in 5 seconds. Isn't posting a zero-effort question a lot worse than this kind of a response? Jul 20, 2018 at 20:43
  • 10
    @PushfPopf You predict correctly. Broken windows theory. TL;DR: Having a lot of a bad thing around tends to make people think that bad thing is okay, thus generating more. Cuts both ways - if there are a lot of snarky comments around, you could get the same effect. Aside from the horrendous issues around defining "illegal", dropping question closure would encourage bad questions and drive experts away.
    – Undo
    Jul 23, 2018 at 21:48
  • 5
    @PushfPopf: If you want a site that is not Stack Exchange, you are welcome to find one. But Stack Exchange's ability to close and delete bad questions is so deeply embedded that removing that would make the sites into something utterly different. It's not quite on par with a suggestion to have democracy without all the messy voting by members of the public, but it's not far short. Jul 24, 2018 at 4:09
  • 5
    @Undo: "Bad" unanswered questions won't drive anybody away. Mean responses drive people away. I have this fantasy that people who are having a problem can come here and ask their question as best they can, and get help or at least be benignly ignored.
    – PushfPopf
    Jul 24, 2018 at 12:51
  • 4
    "This question does not appear to be about the software that powers the Stack Exchange network within the scope defined in the help center." wut
    – Kevin B
    Aug 9, 2018 at 16:14

65 Answers 65


I understand the limits of suggestions you prefer to be offered for this final revision:

At this point, we're considering all major construction done - what we're looking for are things like small sentence tweaks, accidental loopholes, grammar fixes, opportunities for brevity, and similar improvements.

  • R7-V2 has some links and includes the word "help" 14 times, but offers no link to the help pages. A short mention of the Hamburger along with generic FAQs would show thoughtfulness and concern that the visitor has a productive and enjoyable experience, so they have a positive experience and feel encouraged to return.

    Sometimes we see frustration for everyone when there's a misunderstanding of what is expected, indeed such past experiences may have led to several revisions of these rules of conduct.

  • In the section titled "Our Expectations" there is no mention that a well researched question is easier to provide the best answers for and often generates the most interest and best response. The wrong way to explain that would be to demand sensible on-topic questions that require more than a minute of search to find the answer.

    It can be helpful to mention that each community can have a different help file, and an additional one for their Meta. Each community represents a friendly welcoming group whom doesn't necessarily do things the same way as another Stack Exchange site. Have a look at our tour page, join and ask or answer a question. The wrong way to explain that would be mention that there's no lifeguard on duty: Look before you leap.

  • Once people read the expectations and are clear about what they should do it would be useful to direct them to a "Getting Started" document that explains how including some information in the Profile can be useful to the askers and answerers.

    Suggest that they might want to get started by doing X,Y, and Z; more information here ...

The short version:


  • 3
    +1 For the observations and commentary about up-front attention to formulating good questions. It really is rather central to our expectations that people asking questions will perform their due diligence, so it is surprising not to see even a passing mention of that. Jul 26, 2018 at 16:17

Unacceptable Behavior

For the third bullet point, how about...

No bigotry. We don’t tolerate any language meant to offend or alienate people based on things such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.

This includes three changes:

1. "Meant to offend or alienate" would replace the vague and open-ended "Likely to offend or alienate."

It's often hard for well-meaning and respectful individuals to predict what is "likely" to offend or alienate, especially when dealing with different cultures from around the world. People should be careful -- but they shouldn't be treated like bigots if they make an honest mistake.

2. "When in doubt, just don't" would be removed.

Guidelines like "When in doubt, just don't" are for people who don't mean harm, but are just not being careful enough. That's different from actual bigotry, which surely belongs under Unacceptable Behavior.

3. "Things such as" would substitute for "and those are just a few examples."

Simpler, more succinct, and more readable.

And I think the phrasing "things such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion" is just flexible enough to include types of bigotry not on the list, yet limited enough so people cannot stretch it to cover whatever they want.

  • 9
    The flip side of "People shouldn't be treated like bigots if they make a simple mistake" is that when someone makes a simple mistake and someone else gently points it out in a comment, the ideal result is that the first person rephrases. Putting the emphasis on intention increases the potential for a long comment thread arguing "That's not what I meant" vs "But that's how it comes across to me". Jul 20, 2018 at 11:44
  • 6
    Disagree on the first bit exactly for what Peter Taylor wrote: "But I didn't mean it like that!" is an all too common excuse for offensive behaviour. You're right that people can and will make honest mistakes, but if they're honest mistakes, and acted upon by others in a manner compatible with the COC (so no jumping to name calling!), there should not be any harm.
    – hvd
    Jul 20, 2018 at 12:37
  • 1
    I appreciate the intent here, but judging people's intent can go counter "assume good faith".
    – Nemo
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:35
  • 4
    One way to judge people's intent is to see how they respond to "You unintentionally offended someone" -- people who posted in good faith are likely to apologize, back down, and/or remove their offending remarks. Not always, but as a general rule. Let's cut people some slack and give them a chance to reverse themselves.
    – jkdev
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:45

I'm still not comfortable with some of the things that this implies are unfriendly/rude. For example, "you could Google this in 5 seconds." I have a separate Meta post here discussing that particular example.

It's a little less clear in the revision, but the first draft strongly implied that you could be suspended for comments like that. The new code also seems to imply the same thing (I could be wrong, though).

If the moderators are going to start handing out suspensions for calling people lazy, are they going to hand out for actually being lazy, too?

Personally, I only recall one case where someone was actually suspended for blatant laziness, and that was on Math SE where someone had a pattern of being a help vampire that dated back at least 5 years.

The original announcement of the creation of the suspension specifically mentions being a help vampire as a suspendable offense, but it doesn't seem to happen very often (correct me if I'm wrong).

TL;DR If put-downs are going to be suspendable offenses, can we start suspending more help vampires too?

  • 3
    The question ban system is essentially a suspension for askers with a history of unclear or poorly received questions, though. Regarding the "Google it" comments, you could certainly be suspended for it, but that would only usually happen if there's a pattern of you doing that, and you haven't responded positively to any mod messages letting you know where you're going wrong. One inappropriate comment usually won't get you a suspension, just like one poor question won't get you a q-ban... but a pattern of problems might.
    – Aurora0001
    Jul 21, 2018 at 19:26
  • 5
    You can't say "help vampire" on SE because it's offensive to hemavores and discriminatory against nocturnal lifestyles!
    – C8H10N4O2
    Jul 25, 2018 at 0:57


What does this mean?

Perhaps I could find out by Googling for 5 seconds, but my point is that this sort of internet slang should not be included in any official document that new users may not understand because of language or (in my case) age or culture. There's no reason to do it. Use clear standard English that everyone can understand, and by doing so you will set a standard that encourages new users to express themselves in this way too.


And as a minor point, SE uses the utf-8 character set for its HTML pages, so there’s no need to use ASCII from the last century. You can use proper typography in the documentation:

  • What would a better alternative for TL;DR;? I didn't even consider it to be part of the CoC. And I don't understand your last point. Where is ASCII from the last century used?
    – rene
    Jul 22, 2018 at 15:48
  • 1
    @rene — Wikipedia tells me that TL;DR; means "too long; didn't read". I assume that this is used when the author is obliged to write an extensive account of something and is apologizing for the length or warning the reader. In these circumstances (which I often encounter in my answers on SE Biology) I use "Brief Summary" followed by "Detailed Account/Answer/Explanation". One problem for me with TL;DR; is that it does not conform to acronyms I am familiar with (e.g. RTFM) because of the punctuation marks, which I can't read aloud.
    – David
    Jul 22, 2018 at 18:59
  • 2
    "TL;DR" isn't, as far as I can tell, actually part of the CoC in any way. It's just used to mark the sections off within the PDF form, so it only needs to be understood by Meta regulars. Jul 22, 2018 at 23:14
  • " Use clear standard English that everyone can understand" <-- Not actually a thing. Many people have to work to understand said communications and deciding what the common ground everyone is going to work to is a continual process. TL;DR makes the text more accessible to the vast majority of users, with a language barrier to some of them. That's a trade off that's worth measuring rather than dismissing out of hand. Jul 25, 2018 at 17:40
  • 2
    Agree - "TL;DR" is 1) non-standard English/Internet slang 2) generational 3) might not be understood in all SE communities, and 4) has changed meanings over time anyway (Used to mean "Your response was too long, so I couldn't be bothered to read it." ... Now it's a stand in for "What I wrote is too long, so here's a 'Summary'").
    – mc01
    Jul 25, 2018 at 19:42
  • I completely agree with the OP. Solution: simply replace "TL;DR" by "Summary". Jul 28, 2018 at 16:27

This Code of Conduct helps us build a learning community

No, SE is not a learning community. It's a platform to share knowledge, but not specifically about learning. Several answers have already raised this point, but I wanted to mention it again because a fundamental misrepresentation in the very first sentence sets things off really badly.

team, moderators¹, and anyone posting to Q&A sites or chat rooms

Remove the footnote. This sentence doesn't need that level of detail. Furthermore restricting moderators to diamond mods is wrong here: the sentence shouldn't be restricted to exclude editors, voters, and other curators, who would be called “moderators” on many Internet forums.

Be kind. ​Be polite and friendly with others. Avoid jokes and sarcasm -- tone is hard to decipher online

The recommendation to “avoid jokes” is good advice, but it doesn't fit under the heading “be kind”. Making jokes that are misinterpreted because the reader doesn't have the expected context is not unkindness.

“I came to get help, not to get my question edited.”
→ “Thanks for improving my question. I’m happy to provide any other info you’ll need to answer it.”

You've completely inverted the meaning between the “unfriendly” and the “friendly” formulations. That's sarcasm. Sarcasm in a text that recommends against sarcasm is a really bad idea.

This includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to content (e.g. “lazy”

I really cannot bring myself to telling someone off for saying that posting one's homework assignment (“homework dump” post) is lazy. I'm pretty sure we have several “official-looking” meta posts across the network that use terms like “homework dump” and “lazy”, some of them mine, and I do not see any inappropriate conduct there. Asking strangers to do your homework for you is lazy.

For most first-time misconducts, our moderators will (…) send you a warning

There are many cases where a warning is not sufficient for the first offence. I think this table as a whole is still too directive.

This is how moderators generally handle reported issues: (followed by a big image that draws attention because it's typeset differently)

You're spending way too much reader attention on sanctions. The description of possible sanctions should be limited to one sentence. Make each word count!

learning community.

Again, this is not a learning community.

  • 2
    Your statement "No, SE is not a learning community. It's a platform to share knowledge" confuses me. Sharing knowledge has value only when the knowledge being shared is new to the share-ee. Receiving new knowledge is, by definition, learning. Unless you're saying SE distributes only knowledge that everyone already has, I'm getting a contradiction. Could you elaborate?
    – SOLO
    Jul 26, 2018 at 15:29
  • 6
    @SOLO I saw this discussed in details in at least 4 prior answers that suggested to get rid of word "learning"
    – gnat
    Jul 26, 2018 at 17:37
  • @gnat fair enough, I didn't read every previously written word before I commented here. (I did read more thoroughly before posting my own answer a while ago. I remember seeing "learning" discussed, but it never rankled me enough to comment until the way it was presented in this answer specifically.) But c'mon, there are nearly 50 answers, some of which are tomes in and of themselves. With this much content, using a Q&A site for discussion kinda breaks down, and it's hard not to read new posts in isolation. Search has lots of false positives, not to mention that many hidden comments exist.
    – SOLO
    Jul 26, 2018 at 18:07

Reading the very first bullet in the CoC ('If you're here for help') leaves with with an uncomfortable feeling that you are missing an opportunity to address a core cause of strife.

There are many different modes of asking for help. The SE sites are designed for a specific subset of those modes: Posing concrete questions. In my view, the external view of us as a bunch of heartless jerks comes from a disconnect here. People expect to open up a sort of support ticket and have an interaction with someone who will help them. There's nothing wrong with this idea -- except that it's not what these sites are designed to do. So even very polite deflections can be read as heartless. And, on the other hand, those who answer feel harassed to the point of snark by the flood of questions-that-are-not-concrete-questions.

So, I posit, the CoC might want to spent a phrase here setting the expectation, and distinguishing, briefly, 'I need help with X' from 'I did X, I got Y, I expected Z'.


If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Explicitly recommend not commenting. People on the internet don't always seem to understand that that's a very good option. A good time to exercise this option is when the OP is wrong and you feel very strongly about that. Another time is when you fail to come up with a constructive response. Saying nice things instead of mean things it's great, but it's also harder, and it's not practical for a lot of people a lot of the time because constructive, kind human interaction is genuinely difficult, but it's much easier if we can actually choose the situations where we want to be kind and constructive. If I were enforcing a "be kind" clause in a code of conduct, I would feel on far better footing to point out to an offender that they didn't have to say anything at all, so the burden is not on the moderator or the platform to make sure it's always possible for them to say something nice.

I think the code of conduct is really incomplete without explicitly highlighting that not commenting is an active expectation we have alongside our active expectation for those who comment to comment constructively.

  • 1
    Many people have commented that the actual result here is to discourage human interaction. If so, I guess being clear about it would be good.
    – Nemo
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:34
  • 2
    @Nemo rewrote a bit, but yes I would like to discourage human interaction when it's too damn difficult to interact kindly.
    – djechlin
    Aug 7, 2018 at 16:33

I'd prefer formatting with em dashes in contrast to the double dashes used now.


Be kind. Be polite and friendly with others. Avoid jokes and sarcasm -- tone is hard to decipher online. If a situation makes it hard to act kindly, stop engaging and move on.


Be kind. Be polite and friendly with others. Avoid jokes and sarcasm — tone is hard to decipher online. If a situation makes it hard to act kindly, stop engaging and move on.

Spaces around the em dash are considered optional.


I have seen instances where codes of conduct have been used to "get rid of" members of a community for political reasons. What safeguards are in place to prevent this from happening at StackExchange?

  • 2
    Aren't the safeguards (listed in order of escalation) Meta, the Moderator team, the Community Management team and the Contact Us page? I don't see how those currently in place and proven processes are going to be influenced by a CoC. This CoC only codifies how we, the community members, interact with each other in a respectful way. In its current form there is no sign it leans to a certain ideology nor do I see how it can be used directly to "get rid of" members. The routes to handle (mod) abuse are unaffected so the safeguards that were already in place remain.
    – rene
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:57
  • 6
    The difference now is that we have an official code of conduct, which can be selectively applied. IMO we've been doing just fine without one. Because we're all adults. Margaret Thatcher also thought it was no big deal when they introduced a "code of conduct" in parliament and look how it turned out. Jul 25, 2018 at 8:15
  • 2
    we're all adults no, we're not. Age limit is 14 (16 if in the EU). I beg to differ we're doing fine, but can we agree on that we can do better? The CoC can't be selectively applied IMO. Anyone is bound to it. If selectivity is the case, raise an issue. I'm not sure why the Iron Lady has to be brought to the discussion but from a distance I would say the conservatives are to blame for heck of a lot of trouble, not just a failed CoC. One bad example doesn't make all other CoC's as bad.
    – rene
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:28
  • 4
    @rene How would we know if it is selectively applied? Moderators pick and choose which posts/answers/comments to edit or delete, if they do not have to explain why they chose one and not another, then what prevents a moderator from being silently selective in their application of these rules and exercising personal animus or ideological bias?
    – Amadeus
    Jul 25, 2018 at 13:55
  • @Amadeus depends a bit on the size of the site but on SO most stuff is flagged/edited and deleted by regular members. Mods are still only involved in stuff regular users can't solve on their own. Posts are still soft deleted so any non-mod with the right privileges can see what got deleted and by whom. And in fierce comment debates I assume those participate will notice if stuff gets deleted one-sided. I'm not saying it never happens, all I'm saying is that those issues are not new and having a CoC or a be nice policy doesn't change anything for what you seem to perceive as an issue.
    – rene
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:18
  • 1
    Eyes, essentially. Lots and lots of eyes. All moderator actions are visible, and open to inspection from the communities that they serve, as well as us. There have been instances where there were complaints that rules were being enforced selectively, and we expended precisely what was owed, which was hundreds of hours on our part investigating, talking, educating (the religious sites for context). We've yet to see the checks-and-balances break down, and massive reports of exclusion is what prompted this.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:19
  • 2
    This is probably worth asking as a separate question if my comment didn't give enough information; there's more background and depth we could go into.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:21
  • 5
    @TimPost I am confused, what do you mean to say about lots of eyes and that mod actions are open to inspection from the communities, did you by chance mixed posts and comments? Deleted comments are visible only to moderators, this is neither lots of eyes (especially since moderators have lots of other things to do) nor anyhow possible to inspect by community
    – gnat
    Jul 25, 2018 at 15:29
  • 2
    @TimPost As gnat says. Deleted text is only visible if readers bother to go see the edit, and even if they did there is no facility for us to vote on whether a moderator deletion was unfair and should be undone. (as there is if a regular user changes our post). Eyes don't help, there is no "nice" way to call attention to what seems a fundamentally unfair and selective deletion, with a vague CoC to cite that effectively rules out nothing for a moderator regardless of what the non-moderator community thinks. What's our recourse when moderators back each other and don't care what we think?
    – Amadeus
    Jul 25, 2018 at 16:20

'Moderators' is used problematically

Using 'moderator' without qualification, with the expectation that it excludes community moderation by ordinary members, decreases the visibility of the expectation of said moderation, and consequently both the availability of that information to new users and the likelihood that any user will engage in difficult community moderation when an opportunity is presented to them. This in turn decreases site quality and increases elected moderator workload.

Use '♦ Moderators' Instead

This covers community managers, elected mods, mods pro tempore for beta sites, and anyone else with ♦ - level privileges, which is probably what was intended. This has the downside of being somewhat confusing on its own (i.e. it begs the question "What's a ♦ moderator?"), but the upside that it doesn't reinforce the incorrect idea that we have one set of secret moderators with no accountability as our bread and butter site management people, like many new users expect.

  • 3
    wording with "elected" would exclude pro-tem-moderators, community-managers, and also SE developers with diamond level access
    – gnat
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:08
  • 1
    I use "♦ mod[erator]" for this reason whenever it's relevant. Jul 25, 2018 at 21:17
  • 1
    @gnat fair point. I think the loss there is smaller, because the mistaken belief (all diamond mods are elected) is much less problematic, but it could be an issue I suppose. Jul 26, 2018 at 4:16
  • I find that first sentence hard to follow. Could you break it up in a few sentences? Or add a few commas? Jul 26, 2018 at 6:37
  • 1
    @S.L.Barth: I've made an attempt at clearing it up. Jul 26, 2018 at 17:49

Thank you. This version is IMO a great improvement over the previous one, especially since I think it makes expectations very clear without allowing rules lawyers a lot of room to play.

I'm particularly pleased that it passes one of the most important (but rarely considered) tests for a set of rules: Would we be happy if someone took the rules literally and enforced them as they were written? And I think the answer is now "Yes, we would be comfortable."

The one thing that struck me while reading it is primarily a style or wording issue, not one of substance. The opening sentence says "This Code of Conduct helps us build a learning community that is rooted in kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect." "Kindness" seems just a bit...I don't know, touchy-feely? overly abstract? loaded? I'm groping without success for just the right words. Regardless, I honestly think it will incline many readers of the CoC to hold the whole CoC in less respect than it it were left out.

It actually detracts from the point which is made much more robustly by the latter two items. I think you'd have a stronger, clearer, cleaner statement if it just read "This Code of Conduct helps us build a learning community that is rooted in collaboration, and mutual respect." Collaboration and mutual respect do not leave room for unkindness, anyway.

Regardless, thank you for listening to the feedback you got.

  • "without allowing rules lawyers a lot of room to play" you might want to read this answer and its comments meta.stackexchange.com/a/312953/213575
    – Braiam
    Jul 25, 2018 at 13:25
  • "Yes, we would be comfortable." Who's "we"? That statement exemplifies the tragedy of this code. It sets a particular way of not making people uncomfortable above all else and ignores the fact that in doing so it makes people uncomfortable. I'm not part of the "we" you're speaking of. Incidentally, as I'm writing this, there's an answer right below yours (with the same number of upvotes) that starts with "I'm still not comfortable".
    – joriki
    Jul 26, 2018 at 15:29
  • @joriki I understand your issues, and I once shared them. But after 30 years of trying to define human relationships precisely -- why 30? Because I'm dense. I should have figured it out sooner! -- I concluded that we must either write a code of laws and create a judiciary and the whole apparatus of state or describe what we want so that reasonable people can improve their behavior and simply not accept rules lawyering from the the rest. Ultimately, we stand or fall based on the quality of the moderation and the sense of community we create or fail to create.
    – Mark Olson
    Jul 26, 2018 at 15:45

Holy Carp, this is much better!

I see very little that I feel could be improved.

Are you speaking English? If so, I can’t tell.

“I think you’re asking how to add a swap after system installation. Is that correct?”

I think this alternative could be replaced with something more along the lines of "This is an English speaking site. While we'd like to help you, we first need to be able to understand your question."

This handles both questions posted in another language (and not on the not-English-version of the site, eg. Spanish SO) as well as questions posted in poorly written English. Sure, an attempt to understand ("I think you're asking X, is that right?") are nice, the key point that the "Are you speaking English?" comment is trying to make is: questions need to be readable, understandable, and posted in English.

“I came to get help, not to get my question edited.”

“Thanks for improving my question. I’m happy to provide any other info you’ll need to answer it.”

I would change "edited" to "closed" (e.g. "Why is my question being closed? I came here to get help!") as well as replacing the alternative to something like "no comment is needed (see Community Guidelines and How to Ask for more information)."

  • It's hard to know how to handle a poorly written question, other than editing the post to try and fix it. Many non-native speakers realize that their second-language skills are lacking, but others might be offended. "This is an English speaking site..." "My question is in English!!! Why don't you understand it???"
    – jkdev
    Jul 20, 2018 at 2:02
  • 2
    True, but this is just a guide. It's not meant to delineate all possible comments. Just trying to find a good selection. Jul 20, 2018 at 3:51
  • For the first case, I would propose something along the lines of: “I am sorry, but I find it very difficult to understand your English. I think you’re asking how to add a swap after system installation. Is that correct?”
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:48

This looks significantly better then the first one. Most of what I feared would be invitations for people to rule lawyer over particularities has been removed, the language has been broadened and generalised such as to cover a wider area instead of narrow examples, and the importance of intent and good faith attempts to follow have been highlighted.

I'd suggest going a bit further with emphasizing intent instead of reaction in defining what is punishable, but this will serve well. I imagine for most people this will be a very uncontroversial and unconsequential change (as they're already not in the habit of routinely denigrating others for giggles), so if it does help anyone feel better about participating, that's a win in my book.


The existing answers here look like they're mostly about the meaning and intent of the content, but you also asked for "small sentence tweaks" and "grammar fixes", so here we go with some copy editing:


In the first "Our expectations" bullet point, you use a double dash. That should become a true em dash, and it should not be bordered by spaces. Same for other occurrences of the double dash. (Granted, the rule about spaces seems to be older usage, and now somewhat disputed; see EL&U, Grammarist, and The Punctuation Guide for more.)

For most of the document, you use the serial comma, but in the last bullet point on the first page, you do not. I'm not trying to start a holy war about whether the serial comma is appropriate, but I generally advocate for picking one style and sticking with it. In the case of this doc, it looks like one or two just got left out as typos.

The doc contains a blend of links in Markdown format and links that are underlined blue text. I suppose this is not necessarily an error, depending on your implementation process, but I figured better safe than sorry as far as mentioning it in this list, in case some formatting gets forgotten or not applied at all.

Page 1

The footnote starts with "(?)". I can't tell whether this is an intentional use of some shorthand I'm unfamiliar with, or a typo.

Page 2

Under "No bigotry", it might be clearer/less awkward to replace or supplement "and those are just a few examples" with a general description of what you're trying to cover, like "or other groups that people identify personally with".

Page 3

In the left pane of the graphic, the text includes "send you a warning". This is the only time in the graphic where the word "you" is used. I recommend rephrasing that (example: "send the author a warning" or simply "send a warning") to remove "you"; it's good for pane-level parallelism, and the word could come off as a little accusatory, especially to the many readers will never deserve to be warned by a mod themselves.

In the right pane of the graphic, the context makes your meaning fairly clear, but the sentence is grammatically ambiguous. I'd change "displaying" to "who display" (or similar) to make it clear that the bad stuff is modifying "users" rather than "moderators".

There's a single dash on its own line in the middle of the page. I don't know if it's a placeholder for a horizontal rule or something, but it looks odd on its own.

"the respect our community members expects" should be "the respect our community members expect".

The header at the bottom of the page says "Stack Overflow"; earlier, you used the "$CommunityName$" shorthand. Should be changed to that shorthand if you mean SO the site, or changed to "Stack Exchange" if you mean the network. (You could argue for "Stack Overflow" meaning the network, but "Stack Exchange" as the network name is more consistent with the rest of the doc.)

  • Disagree on the page 2 suggestion, but the rest is good Jul 25, 2018 at 17:34
  • Could you explain why you disagree? You think it's superfluous, or you're actively against that message, or you want more specifics, or...?
    – SOLO
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:56
  • I think 'and those are just a few examples' makes it clear we expect users to understand what bigotry is, which we do. I think your suggestion strays back into trying to nail hate speech down in a way that's unhelpful. 'I can't define it but I know it when I see it' is the right way to go here. Jul 25, 2018 at 19:17
  • Okay. In that case we agree philosophically but disagree about the implementation details. When I read it, I thought the list of examples distracted from the message and made things unclear. Not much to do here other than shrug and say "communication is hard", I guess.
    – SOLO
    Jul 25, 2018 at 19:22

“This is called Invariance and Covariance. […]”

Do not capitalise invariance and covariance. If you want to highlight that this about the word itself, use italics or quotes.


First off, I appreciated having a PDF on Github. Google Docs and Github are both pretty sluggish on my computer, so being able to download and open it in my PDF reader was a lot nicer than the last time in Google Docs.

As for the document itself...

The header

Mark Olson noticed a problem with the use of "kindness" in the header, but couldn't pin down the specific problem. I think that problem is that "kindness" is noticeably more casual than "collaboration" and "mutual respect". I'd suggest changing it to "courtesy" instead. I also think it would read better moving "can" to before "feel", and changing "We commit..." to "We are committed..." I've put the changes in italics below:

This Code of Conduct helps us build a learning community that is rooted in courtesy, collaboration, and mutual respect​. Whether you’ve come to ask questions or to generously share what you know, join us in building a community where all people can feel welcome and participate, regardless of expertise or identity.

We are committed to enforcing and improving the Code of Conduct. It applies to everyone using $CommunityName$ and the Stack Exchange network, including our team, moderators 1, and anyone posting to Q&A sites or chat rooms.

Our Expectations

I agree with Rob that researching your question is something the community generally expects, and I feel that it would fit well under the first bullet. The part about feedback is a bit redundant and would be better placed under the feedback bullet. I'm not sure the volunteers sentence is actually important.

If you’re here to get help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you​. Include your research and what you've already tried when asking a question so we can provide the best answer.

I'm pretty sure new people are the only ones who will need to learn about our community, so "especially if someone is new" is probably redundant in the next bullet. I've read a lot about people having a hard time with the StackExchange model, treating it like a forum instead, so maybe that was what you intended? It seems like a good thing to mention here.

If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming​. Learning how to participate in our community can be daunting, especially for people who are used to discussion forums instead. Offer support if you see someone struggling or otherwise in need of help.

To put some comments by Tom Limoncelli and Tim into an answer, I'd suggest the following rewording for the next bullet:

Give and expect feedback. Kind, respectful, clear and constructive feedback is an essential part of our culture. When someone suggests an improvement, consider how you can use it to improve your question or answer.

Like others, I agree with avoiding humor all together being trouble, but the warning still sounds reasonable to me. I think "friendly" and "kindly" are a bit inconsistent with the otherwise professional-sounding writing, and it took me a minute to figure out what "engaging" meant in this context. My suggested rewrite:

Be kind.​ Be polite and respectful to others. Be careful with jokes and sarcasm -- tone is hard to decipher online and it can be easy to misinterpret. If a situation makes it hard to act respectfully, leave the situation and move on.

Unacceptable behavior

The second bullet might benefit from some examples like the first. An example of an example:

  • Personal attack: People who believe in rocks are lazy, ignorant idiots who can't be bothered to do a simple google search and read about the mountains of evidence proving they don't exist.
  • Personal-feeling attack: This question is lazy and ignorant. It doesn't account for the mountains of articles a simple google search pulls up for "do rocks exist". Spoiler alert: They don't.
  • Subtly personal attack: A google search for "do rocks exist" would turn up mountains of articles proving they actually don't.
  • Focusing on the content: I noticed your question is important whether or not rocks exist. If you remove the paragraph about rocks, it would be easier to read and likely see more people who can answer.

On the "No bigotry" bullet, I'd prefer to just say "groups they identify with" and leave it at that rather than making a list of them.

"When in doubt, just don't" is witty and concise. It also feels flippant to me and reads like a subtle put-down. Maybe it's just the negativity in this section getting to me, but I dislike it a lot. I'd go for this instead:

No bigotry.​ We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on the groups they identify with. When in doubt, it never hurts to rephrase it more tactfully or omit the remark entirely.

Reporting and Enforcement

Personally, I don't care whether flagging alerts moderators or triggers an automatic deletion. The process could involve chanting while interrogating a rubber duck taped to a counterfeit Mona Lisa and I'd be perfectly fine with that (well, maybe it'd be a bit creepy). What matters to me is whether the bad stuff goes away.

Saying "We'll respond as quickly as we can" on the Contact part but not the Flag part suggests contacting you gets faster results than flagging the content. I suspect you'd prefer the opposite implication so the moderators can handle the stuff they can and leave staff more time to handle what moderators can't.

"We take your reports seriously" is topically similar to the bullets and dissimilar to the remainder of the paragraph. Combined with the colon at the end of the first paragraph, it makes more sense to me interpreting the bullets and two surrounding paragraphs as a broader "reporting and enforcement" paragraph, briefly interrupted by a bulleted list, rather than a narrower "What you can do" paragraph (with bulleted list) followed by a "what will happen" one.

Thanks to the above interpretation, "We take your reports seriously" is most closely associated with the Contact bullet. By combining with the "We'll respond as quickly as we can" problem, it implies you take contacting more seriously than flagging. Again, that would promote contacting first and flagging second.

It also occurred to me while writing this that I was operating under the assumption that flagging and contacting were equivalent. A brief look at the contact form suggests they're actually very different, and should probably be addressed separately.

I'd rearrange things as follows:

Every person contributes to creating a kind, respectful community. If you find unacceptable behavior directed at yourself or others, you can flag the content to alert the moderators. We take flags seriously and will respond as quickly as we can.

Those who don’t follow the Code of Conduct​ in good faith​ may face repercussions deemed appropriate by our moderation team. All actions will be taken on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of our moderators. This is how moderators generally handle reported issues:


If you have concerns about how a moderator has handled a situation, you can contact us directly.

I'd personally like to see the middle section of the graphic softened a little. It suggests to me that making one (different) mistake per month for six months would get me suspended, even if I'm clearly trying to improve. I'm pretty sure the moderators would avail themselves of the "case-by-case basis" part to just give a warning in each case, which makes the middle section seem overly harsh to me. Or maybe my lack of experience with moderators has driven a false assumption and they really would suspend me for that, in which case I suppose that's fine to leave in.

Also, the hard-of-seeing will need some OCR tools to read that graphic if you don't include an alt text or replace it with plain text.

The footer

The term "avenues" seems to be synonymous with "methods" in this context, but I don't think that's what you intended. I suggest changing it to "direction" instead.

We created this Code of Conduct because it reinforces the respect our community members expect from one another. Also, having a code provides us with a clear direction to correct our culture should it stray off-course.

Chat TL;DR

I don't have much (any) experience with Chat, but I get the impression it's more of a "learning and social" community than just a "learning" one.

Emotional summary

I feel apathetic toward the TL;DR sections, largely because they're essentially duplicates of what I've already read. I'd likely feel differently if I hadn't already read everything else and made them redundant, or if they had been at the top instead. It's probably not typical that someone would read the whole document and then the TL;DR though, so I think it's all right.

I feel fairly neutral about the Reporting and Enforcement section. It feels like impassively describing the system to me. I think that's okay too.

I feel a little depressed reading the Unacceptable Behavior section. There's a lot of negativity. I think I feel like it's accusing me of being the type of person who would do those kinds of things. I don't like the section. I understand it's necessary, but I still don't like reading it.

I like the Our Expectations section best. I know I hit on it pretty hard, but it's still my favorite and I think that's why I did. It has a lot of potential to be friendly, positive and welcoming. It also feels like good advice for life in general, not just StackExchange. If I were the kind of person who put motivational stuff on my wall, I'd make the edits I suggested and pin the first section up.

I might do that anyway.

  • I'm not a native speaker so I might read things differently. I like both your analysis and how your suggestions improve shortcomings. I have one remark:There are more answers (likely versus intent) that suggest improvements on the No bigotry part. While Just don't might be witty, doesn't it have a different feel to it then to say rephrase to something more kind.? Doesn't that latter phrasing leave a loophole to alienate groups in a kind way?
    – rene
    Jul 24, 2018 at 6:36
  • 1
    @rene: I intended there to be a change in how the reader feels after reading it. Right now it's witty, but also flippant, which risks making the reader feel belittled. I wanted to make it more respectful to prevent those feelings, and hopefully invoke more positive ones instead. If I invoked a negative feeling instead, that was unintentional and I'd like to know. Looking back at it now, I feel like it could actually still use some improvement, so I'm glad you drew my attention to it. I'll give it some more thought and try to improve it some more.
    – Mirinth
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:03
  • 1
    I assumed that kindly alienating people would be difficult, if not impossible, so there may be a loophole in the wording I chose. Personally, I think having a hard-to-exploit loophole is the lesser of the two evils (compared to a flippant code of conduct), but avoiding both evils would certainly be even better. If you can suggest any improvements, I'll try to incorporate them into my answer. If not, I still appreciate your taking the time to help me improve. =)
    – Mirinth
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:03
  • I have to read this whole CoC with a dictionary close by, so don't count on me suggesting improvements. If you want to make it worse, I'm all in ...
    – rene
    Jul 24, 2018 at 8:08
  • @rene: I feel like my rephrasing of the bigotry section still had hints of flippancy in it, so I rephrased it again to suggest increasing tact or omitting the remark entirely. Rules laywers could still argue that they shouldn't be punished because they weren't in doubt, but I think the intended audience is people who don't know any better, rather than people trying to get out of trouble, so the loophole is probably okay unless we can figure out another better way to phrase it.
    – Mirinth
    Jul 24, 2018 at 20:32
  • 1
    Also, if you added the sentence "I think it would be worth trying to improve that if possible" to the end of your first comment, you'd have a polite, specific, and personal attack free, suggestion for improving my answer. It was basically a suggestion for improvement already. And it inspired me to go back and revise that section to be a little better. I think you can definitely suggest improvements.
    – Mirinth
    Jul 24, 2018 at 20:33
  • Thanks for revisiting and I definitely find this version better then the first one. I'm glad this worked out this way. Pleasant experience, learned a bit and became a tad wiser in the process.
    – rene
    Jul 24, 2018 at 20:50
  • No bigotry. We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion -- and those are just a few examples. When in doubt, just don’t.

It’s clear that this bullet prohibits throwing insults because of who someone is or what they believe (at least, within the four listed categorizations). Attacking someone with a comment like “you’re an up-tight, narrow-minded religious bigot” is not allowed.

However, this bullet is ambiguous as to whether it also prohibits questions and answers that touch on topics or contain information that might offend others. For example, it’s possible that the premise of a question or a fact proposed in an answer might imply that there is a God (which could offend atheists) or that there is no God (which could offend theists). At least up until now, questions and answers along these lines have been allowed on relevant SO sites as part of discussing allowed topics.

In light of this bullet’s text, it’s not clear if they’ll still be allowed. Would you consider clarifying to remove this ambiguity?

If this bullet is intended to prohibit content that might offend, then it seems that should be made crystal clear. If the intent is to prohibit personally-directed attacks that incorporate who someone is or what they believe in their unkindness, it seems this is already covered by the previous point (“No name-calling or personal attacks.”)—if needed, the explanation given with that bullet could be expanded to explicitly address attacks based on who someone is or what they believe. If the intent is something else, hopefully this point’s wording can be clarified in a way that states that intent without ambiguity.


How do we know what language is acceptable, now?

I have a problem right now, with an answer on IPS in which I used the word "damn" for emphasis; specifically somebody lifting a dog by "his damn ear." It has received over two hundred upvotes; but moderators insist on deleting "damn" as profanity.

As an excuse, many point at This Answer by Jeff Atwood, (SE Developer and User #1), in which he says:

... in general you should not use expletives anywhere, under any circumstances. If you can't effectively communicate what you need to say without resorting to lowest common denominator cursing, then keep it to yourself.

However, he leaves the question of "what exactly is an expletive?" unanswered. By the dictionary the British word "bloody" is an expletive, so is "wicked". Are these banned?

Consider this 2009 answer By Jeff Atwood:

Hey man, I had to do all the work to format that damn thing into 140 characters!
Where's my credit for that?!?

I infer from that Jeff did not consider "damn" as an intensifier to fall into the realm of "lowest common denominator cursing". Nor should it be so considered, it is considered "mild language" and isn't even bleeped on prime time broadcast TV. It is in the Title of books; "How to Write a Damn Good Novel," (Mystery / Thriller). It is used without issue in thousands of SE questions and answers, and over 40 times on IPS alone.

The issue I am having with moderators now is just an example; a selectively enforced vague warning gives liberty to those in power to exercise their own bigotries and whims that are shared by very few others.

Yes, the police force needs the power to enforce the law, but that law should not be so vague that the police just shut up whomever they want for whatever reason they want and can always say "the law says it is my judgement call," while leaving hundreds and thousands of others, doing exactly the same thing, unmolested.

I'd like more clarification on what kind of language is acceptable on SE. Our users are specifically NOT supposed to be children, I don't think G-rated language is the answer. Certainly, any language, profane or not, used to insult another user should be prohibited, insults should be deleted. My issue is with "mild language", PG-13 language, that is not even bleeped on American prime time major network shows. If our users could hear it there, I see no reason to flag it on SE.

The language "likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion" is far too vague.

I am an atheist. Just saying that offends some deeply religious people, not to mention detailing anything about how an atheist approaches life or morals. Other deeply religious people are offended by any discussion of sex, homosexuality, promiscuity, rape ... All of which are relevant topics in Writing for novels or screenplays. If somebody strongly disagrees with me, have I offended or alienated them? If a moderator strongly disagrees with me, can they with impunity censor me for offending their personal taste in language?

  • 2
    Even "mild" language is not necessary, and it is not professional either. It also may offend sensitive users, so whether Jeff or a 1 rep user uses any 'questionable' language, it should be removed.
    – hat
    Jul 20, 2018 at 12:39
  • 3
    @Jǝssǝ Except it isn't, as I said, there are literally thousands of answers including the word "damn." Making this extremely selectively enforced.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 20, 2018 at 14:16
  • I definitely would note cite some of Jeff's writing as acceptable language. He hasn't been with SO for the better part of a decade, and we definitely don't put up with that sort of language.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 20, 2018 at 14:23
  • 2
    As to being an Atheist - in whichever context, are you saying that as a statement of fact or with the intent of being controversial? Going to one of our religious sites and proselytizing for Atheist (or any other) views isn't going to fly. Mentioning your beliefs (or lack thereof) in a general discussion (say in chat) should be fine. Context matters.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 20, 2018 at 14:56
  • 9
    Also, it's worth noting that your initial edit specifically said "god damn", it was removed by two different moderators three times as unnecessary and offensive until you tried with only "damn" (after rolling it back yet again to "god damn") and then specifically pinged me to let me know that you'd made the change. At that point, I was tired of the edit warring, rolled back and locked the post to prevent it from continuing. As a note, I'm also an Atheist, so the edit has nothing to do with offending my personal beliefs.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:41
  • 1
    @Catija I made that change from "god damn" to "damn" immediately after the rollback, specifically to make it less offensive. If you are fine with only "damn" then I'll leave it that way; otherwise if you think it offensive either way, why mention the difference? Your note says it will be discussed on meta, but now you say you just don't want to allow any discussion at all. I mentioned "atheism" as another example of my belief I have been targeted elsewhere by a moderator for discussing atheism in a context where religion was specifically the nature of the OP question (on writing fiction).
    – Amadeus
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:14
  • 1
    @HDE226868 My point is; moderators are fond of pointing at Jeff Atwood's response to "expletives" or quoting it to justify their idea that "damn" is "not nice," while the other link shows he used it himself (reportedly along with "crap"): Clearly indicating his definition of "expletive" did not include mild language a majority of adults use in common conversation. As for answers with "damn": 44 on IPS, 54 on Academia, 132 on Writing, and 3853 on Stack Overflow. Clearly this prohibition is selectively enforced. A recipe for moderators exercising prejudice, like cops & traffic law.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:32
  • 4
    @Amadeus None of this has any relevance to the Code of Conduct, because the use of the word wasn't okay before the CoC and isn't going to be okay after it's implemented. If the word exists in posts, it's more likely just because it hasn't been seen. Moderators can't see every post; we just can't.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:59
  • 2
    @HDE226868 On the contrary, it is an example of what is wrong with the CoC, it is too vague to prevent moderators from exercising power out of personal irritation or animus. As the new CoC is written, almost anything a moderator doesn't like can be censored on the grounds it might make someone, somewhere, someday, uncomfortable. There is nothing in that ensures consistency or due process or allows any sort of appeal or vote on it. My situation is an example of this arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement actually happening.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 20, 2018 at 19:14
  • 10
    @Amadeus: As an example of "arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement", your example is pretty... trivial. Nothing meaningful was changed by removing that word. You have not been prevented from communicating the information you wanted to communicate. As such, I don't see any genuine problems from this "arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement". If you think removing the word "damn" is censoring, then you are seriously misusing the term. Jul 20, 2018 at 20:09
  • @NicolBolas It is my post, and I think it has diminished emotional impact without the emphasis. Obviously removing the word "damn" is censorship, otherwise what is the point of moderating? Censorship is a good thing, there are offensive expletives that should be censored. If you think "damn" is one of those expletives, then you are seriously misusing the term. If you don't think "damn" is one of them, then its removal is arbitrary and inconsistent because then it's removal was not done for any valid "be nice" reason at all!
    – Amadeus
    Jul 20, 2018 at 20:14
  • 2
    1.A simple dictionary check shows that it is a curse word: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/damn . ; 2.Imho we are going for the most objective, least emotional answers. That's what is professional courtesy. Jul 20, 2018 at 22:28
  • @AnneTheAgile You misread read that. It says as a verb, a synonym for "damn" is "curse". I did not use it as a verb, I used it as an adjective for emphasis (his damn ear), in the same sense as "damned": merriam-webster.com/dictionary/damned which has no synonym "curse" or "swear". Now that this is cleared up, by your Merriam-Webster criterion, if I change it to "damned" I am fine? IMHO, speaking as both a college professor and a professional paid writer, I am going for the most memorable lessons; and in this particular answer about cruelty to a dog, emotionalism was warranted.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 21, 2018 at 11:30
  • If it: (1) is questionable and (2) creates a disruption then you probably need to consider changing it. Also, Jeff has not worked here for quite a while now, which doesn't make him an ideal source of current policy :) He was also, sometimes famously, not particularly adept at following his own advice, just like the rest of us.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 23, 2018 at 14:28
  • 1
    I just updated the answer to that question that Jeff originally wrote. If you try to take a little liberty and use certain milder words for style and emphasis and someone objects to it (especially a moderator, who is likely reacting to flags from other users) - take it out.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 23, 2018 at 14:38

Those who don’t follow the Code of Conduct ​in good faith​ may face repercussions deemed appropriate by our moderation team.

I fail to make sense of the function of in good faith in this sentence and I honestly do not understand what you want to communicate here.

I see the following groupings of the parts in this sentence:

  • Those who don’t (follow the Code of Conduct ​in good faith​)

    Here the only difference made by in good faith is to add users who follow the CoC in bad faith (to those who don’t follow the CoC). I could understand this as a catch-all clause for those who adhere to the CoC but are disruptive anyway. If you really want to communicate this, this should be less subtle. However, I doubt that this is what you want to say since it would implicitly the CoC to be incomplete.

  • Those who don’t (follow the Code of Conduct) ​in good faith​

    Here the effect of in good faith is that it explicitly excludes those who break the CoC in bad faith – which would be absurd.

My best guess is that you want to say something like:

Those who violate the Code of Conduct (even in good faith) may face repercussions […]

  • I'd hope the "in good faith" means the opposite of what you guessed, because it would be pointless to even have that bunch of words in there if "in good faith" wouldn't be to the users advantage.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 24, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    Would it even be possible to have a CoC that is complete? There'll always be people who look for loopholes to exploit. Jul 24, 2018 at 14:46
  • @S.L.Barth: Well, you can have a catch-all clause (e.g., “thou shalt not harm the community”). But then it should be more explicit.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 24, 2018 at 15:09

Wikiquettes, (permalink) the code-of-conduct in Wikipedia; seem to be more brief, to-the-point and clear than our's. Although they have lot of similarity with ours' ; they have a big dissimilarity in the range of flexibility.

They did not made any religious script of "this type of wording is bad". They simply left it over on readers' discretion.

Here are quote from wikipedia:

  • Assume good faith. Wikipedia has worked remarkably well so far based on a policy of nearly complete freedom to edit. People come here to collaborate and write good articles.

  • Keep in mind that raw text may be ambiguous and often seems ruder than the same words coming from a person standing in front of you. Irony is not always obvious when written. Remember that text comes without facial expressions, vocal inflection, or body language. Be careful choosing the words you write: what you mean might not be what others understand. Likewise, be careful how you interpret what you read: what you understand might not be what others mean.

  • Do not intentionally make misrepresentations. Apologise if you inadvertently do so.

  • Do not ignore reasonable questions.

  • Although it is understandably difficult in an intense argument, if other editors are not as civil as you would like them to be, be more civil, not less. That way at least you are not moving towards open conflict and name-calling; by your own action you are actively doing something about it. Try to treat others with dignity—they are people as well.

  • Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we had not. Say so.

  • Forgive and forget.

  • Recognize your own biases, and keep them in check.

  • Give praise when it's due. Everybody likes to feel appreciated, especially in an environment that often requires compromise. Drop a friendly note on users' talk pages.

This makes a whole lot of difference, with amazing flexibility. From the quoted text I have highlighted the most important portions.

On the current examples, I felt, pointing at "This type of language is bad language" could have bad consequences, particularly the current "unacceptable" or "unfriendly" column does not contains any direct hate speech like "You should die" or "Get lost from here".

They are some absolutely normal sentences (to my view) which have scope of ambiguous emotional interpretation (for some other people). So I think the column for example of "unwanted language" is inappropriate. This sort of ambiguity is unavoidable time to time, from most decent people. So these can't be a criterion for a confirmed "unfriendly" or "unacceptable".

Although that column hurted and confused me a lot. I'm not telling to completely go without examples (as wikipedia did; they completely avoided examples); because to explaining what to avoid, but without citing examples, could have some other consequences.

So instead telling those examples "unacceptable" or "unfriendly"; they should be renamed as "could be confusing or misunderstood as unfriendly", and they should keep scope of apologising (as wikiquette tells "Do not intentionally make misrepresentations. Apologise if you inadvertently do so.") and clearing up any misunderstanding. otherwise this column is going to punish a lot of innocent people.


  • 1
    I found your last paragraph a bit difficult to follow. Maybe its first sentence should be "I also think that examples are unavoidable to explain something." Then the next part ("But the current...") would start a new sentence. I think that would make the post more clear. Aug 9, 2018 at 15:08
  • 1
    Thank you for letting me know I am trying to improve language and meaning. Aug 9, 2018 at 15:20
  • 1
    @S.L.Barth I have done the edits Aug 9, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    Good work! I, for one, find it clearer now. Thanks! Aug 9, 2018 at 18:57

This is called Invariance and Covariance. If you Google it, you’ll find tutorials that can explain it much better than we can in a comment here.

I think the "Google it" culture might need some tweaking. Here are my two reasons:

  • Many visitors to Stack Exchange are here exactly because they are in the process of Googling the question they are trying to answer. It is quite frustrating to Google for an answer to a question and the number one result is a Stack Exchange article telling you to search Google for an answer to your question. This problem grows with the popularity of Stack Exchange.

  • "Google it" is not a repeatable, time-invariant, location-invariant solution. Depending on how long ago the original answer was posted, Google may return vastly different results. Depending on where you live Google may return vastly different results. Depending on your browser cookies, you may get vastly different (and potentially less useful) results to the Stack Exchange member answering this question.

I would prefer the following:

I Googled "Invariance Covariance" and the first result was [insert link]. See if that link helps. Try performing a similar search to see if it gives you a better explanation than what we can in a comment here.


My main concern with this site in past years was that it gamified moderation. This caused a lot of problems, because it became an easter egg hunt to find reasons to criticize the questions and answers of those here simply to enlighten and be enlightened. If these changes helped reduce that problem, I'll be very greatful.

  • 1
    I would be very surprised to see any evidence of any feature on the sites that specifically rewards any sort of negative moderation action. I don't believe any such thing exists, or has ever existed. SE does gamify moderation, but always through e.g. badges that don't care whether suggested edits are approved or rejected, questions left open or closed, etc — just review items completed. Aug 1, 2018 at 13:42

Avoid jokes and sarcasm.

From what point in time does this new Code of Conduct apply? Specifically, does it apply retrospectively to "historical" jokes such as these:

Is the "historical" value of these jokes greater than the value of the Code of Conduct? In other words, can these "historical" jokes be deleted now, and the undeserved reputation earned from these jokes be withdrawn?

  • That last example does not read as a joke to me. Does that make this answer a joke? On a more serious note: I assumed most of the concerns are about comments. And while the avoid jokes could certainly apply to answers to some extent, I think it would be pretty unwelcoming if a fresh question gets called out for being a joke.
    – rene
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:37
  • @rene The question may not be a joke, but it has been locked? Nonetheless, that is not really my point. My point is does the new CoC apply to existing jokes, which they have themselves kept around for "historical" reasons?
    – Masked Man
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:45
  • If anything, they apply to existing exchanges between users, yes. But in that case you need to link to comments, not posts because I honestly don't see how posts by itself (if not rude/low quality) will be subject as a whole to the CoC. Parts of it, maybe. Edit old posts, sure but if your use of the word delete refers to a whole Q/A I feel we're overreaching the goal. I don't think the CoC is primarily about the content itself. It is about those that provide the content and those that share their opinion about that content.
    – rene
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:55
  • If a post is a bad joke, saying so in a comment should not be met with hostility. If a post with a bad joke is on-topic and can stay on the site/should be moderated is still governed on the per-meta-site. The exchanges in the conversation are more governed by the CoC then actual content (but that doesn't mean that in posts we now allow to be rude / joking / sarcastic) but I don't think that was a huge problem (maybe on sites like IPS or the religion sites this is different)
    – rene
    Jul 31, 2018 at 6:56
  • 1
    @rene I have now removed the 4th example. Can we now focus on the actual question? To reiterate, are "historical" jokes allowed by the CoC?
    – Masked Man
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:34
  • The CoC is not meant to govern content. That is where the per-meta sites is for. So, if historical jokes in post content were allowed, they still are under the new CoC.
    – rene
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:47
  • Ok, so jokes and sarcasm are not allowed in the comments, but they are allowed in the posts? That's a pretty interesting interpretation of CoC.
    – Masked Man
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:52
  • 3
    I don't really think punishment ought to be retroactive. However if a question no longer meets the standards of the site - in terms of tone or content, voting to close appropriately seems like the right thing to do. As for the rep, meh, I don't really think it should be special cased and ought to be treated like any other deleted post. The NARQiness is the real issue here
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:55
  • I'm known for my pretty interesting interpretations ... I'm also often wrong.
    – rene
    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:13
  • @rene Well, thankfully, at least witty comments have not been disallowed. :-)
    – Masked Man
    Jul 31, 2018 at 9:29
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek Yeah, that sounded like the right thing to do to me as well, but instead they decided to keep those jokes around because of "historical" values. I don't really get it, but I guess it is something akin to Wikipedia's Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense, except for the "deleted" part. I find it very confusing when people define new rules/laws/guidelines/code, etc. and then say that it doesn't apply in these specific reasons because of some Noodle Incident.
    – Masked Man
    Jul 31, 2018 at 9:32

The following comments showed up on a new user's post. Names removed.

Apology not accepted. Fix it. There is no excuse. No, I'm not going to tilt my head upside down. Closing as unclear, and -1 for not just fixing the problem. – One User

The next has a quote by op apologizing to reply to:

(Sorry for the wrong image orientation) You should also apologize for asking a question that is unanswerable. It's like me asking you if you like my Aunt's cooking. You know nothing about my Aunt same as we know basically nothing about this alternator. How do you expect anyone to be able to give a decent answer? -2nd User

"The type id on the plate would make it unambiguously answerable." This is an ironic (and somewhat of a hypocritical) statement. Then why ask us in the first place? Also, it is hard to interpret the this identification because I can't tell if that's a B or an 8, or if that says 65 at the end, etc. Admittedly, to expect us to clearly see every little detail on this picture and to not tell us any numbers that you see on this seems rather unreasonable and arrogant. -3rd User

They were flagged as unkind, which a moderator quickly declined. Are these not the type of things the new conduct code are supposed to target?

If not, shouldn't they be? And shouldn't moderators agree to adhere to this? Because it seems that the code of conduct proposed is simply a sign on the wall that no one reads, especially the ones that are supposed to enforce it.

Point being that either the CoC is not being communicated properly in its examples, or its not being communicated properly to moderation teams. The next revision needs to take that into account. I am not looking for a reply or answer, these are rhetorical questions to illustrate an issue with the CoC as implemented.

  • 4
    This question doesn't seem like the right place for this discussion.
    – user392547
    Sep 14, 2018 at 3:17
  • I don't like to the question or site because this isn't so much about that specific question, as general reply to what the CoC is supposed to cover. @Chair If you can help anonymize it or change it that would be great.
    – cde
    Sep 14, 2018 at 3:26
  • @Chair is that edit better?
    – cde
    Sep 14, 2018 at 3:30
  • I think it's okay here, but if you'd like responses your answer might be better as a question in it's own right. Sep 14, 2018 at 5:24
  • Not looking for a reply or answer, these are rhetorical questions to illustrate an issue with the CoC as implemented.
    – cde
    Sep 14, 2018 at 5:26
  • 1
    That 2nd and 3th comment that you cite, explain to the asker what is wrong with their question. Removing them, IMO, would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Sep 14, 2018 at 8:20
  • 1
    This isn't going to happen overnight. We've got a lot of communication that we need to have with (now, 600+ !!) moderators to help them identify varying types of caustic comments, and provide some guidance on what to do (moderators on our network have quite a bit of autonomy, and that's not something we want to change). This is also the first release version of the CoC, we may need to change some language to be more specific (I don't think we will, mostly noting that we're not closed to the idea). [1/2]
    – Tim Post
    Sep 14, 2018 at 12:14
  • [2/2] And even when we achieve a new level of consistency, there will always be crashes, and you'll always hear about those yet seldom about the million other questions that went perfectly fine. We have an obligation to pay attention to and learn from every single incident, but one big belly-flop doesn't negate significant forward progress, which I feel we're making :)
    – Tim Post
    Sep 14, 2018 at 12:14
  • 1
    @slbarth that can be conveyed a different way, and allowing comments that are rude as long as they have some percentage of helpful goes against what this CoC is supposed to do. Nothing stopping those commenters from saying the same thing but nicer or At least not insultingly. The code has an example of calling the a post lazy. Is arrogant and hypocritical not the same thing?
    – cde
    Sep 14, 2018 at 13:31

A few thoughts:

  • On "no subtle put-downs", you're inviting moderators to overreach. Subtle things are hard to judge, and banning them tells moderators it is ok to dive into things reasonable people might disagree on. It'd be better to go the opposite way and refuse to act on subtle things. And the examples are things that probably should not be banned; sometimes in societies people get frustrated with each other. Expressing that should be okay. You're building this for humans.
  • On the other hand, the "no name-calling or personal attacks" seems workable and positive.
  • On "no bigotry", there's really no way to do this right. "Likely to offend" is not the right standard - people get offended about all sorts of things, and trying to control people's language will (rightly) offend them too.
  • On "No harassment", you should probably prefer a less expansive definition of harassment, focused on repeated unwanted contact after requests to stop. Other offenses should be discussed as separate things.
  • Also, banning jokes seems culture-killing, and I think would require exceptionally strong justification.

"Thanks for improving my question..."

This could not be more condescending. That should be something along the lines of, "Can you explain why you edited my question so I can leave high quality content here in the future", not "Thank you for feeding me your scraps high rep overlords"

Other than that I thought it was good.

  • The downvote(s) are going to be along the rational of "your interpretation is wrong." And that has to do with the fact that it is...and exactly why the previous CoC document was bad. So, thanks! Jul 20, 2018 at 21:54
  • 2
    @Draco18s I'm sorry I don't understand what you're saying. Could you rephrase your explanation?
    – user390407
    Jul 20, 2018 at 21:57
  • 2
    My explanation is that the previous draft Code of Conduct was poor because it is possible for two people to interpret the same phrase in different ways. Your post here takes a phrase and misinterprets it really badly ("bad" in this context meaning "not friendly"). The misinterpretation is likely the reason for any downvotes (the answer was at -1 when I made my comment). Jul 20, 2018 at 23:37
  • It's still possible for that.
    – user390407
    Jul 23, 2018 at 13:45
  • Yes, it is, but it's better than it was before. Speaking on this example line in particular, I took objection to it in a different way. Jul 23, 2018 at 15:59
  • 1
    @Draco18s I think you're confusing improvement for meeting standards. It's better, but it's not where it needs to be. Stack Overflow has a real problem with high reputation users running rough-shot on low rep users. This isn't going to help that problem, and that's basically the cause of Stack Overflow being so unwelcoming. This is another place that SO is not capitalizing on achieving their goals with this entire campaign.
    – user390407
    Jul 23, 2018 at 17:40
  • 1
    I agree that this example is poor, but I think it's because instead of the "unfriendly" and "friendly" options presenting alternative wording for the same idea, the two are intended to be fundamentally different responses. And that's not wrong in itself, either, but it doesn't fit with the other examples presented. Jul 26, 2018 at 16:36

Others have answers regarding downvotes, but here is my suggestion.

Consider giving explanations when downvoting questions and/or answers. Knowing the problem with their contribution will help them rectify the problem and/or make better contributions in the future.

Of course this does not necessitate commenting, but leaves it to the discretion of the possible downvoter.


I agree with majority of answers: great improvements, thanks for listening to our feedback!

The only small thing I'm missing now is to speak about voting. When it's about welcoming atmosphere of the site, downvoting new users' questions may hurt a lot.

I think about something along the lines of

be patient with new users, suggest improvements and ask for clarification instead of down-voting.

(honest questions doesn't deserve downvoting, blatantly off-topic / spam questions will be closed / deleted anyway).

To address down votes and the comment about requirement for new users:

I fully agree that posts of new users should have the same requirements as established users' posts.

And I think way of keeping those standards are closure and deletion of questions.

Voting is not a way of moderation, it's the way to express opinion

  • up-vote means agreement with the post, appreciation of the effort / knowledge demonstrated...
  • down-vote means disagreement, expressing frustration overt a low quality post...

What I try to explain is that down vote on new users' questions had more negative effect than educating.

Changing CoC have started by realising SE network isn't very welcoming, not welcoming new users with a down vote would be a good start to improve.

  • 5
    I agree with you here. While the intent of the downvote function is solid, young people, new to SE, often take the downvote a little personally - I certainly used to. Of course, they shouldn't take it personally, but they're young and still of that mindset. In every day life, one would think about how they are communicating criticism to a young person, specifically because of their tendency to take it personally.
    – thephpdev
    Jul 27, 2018 at 15:31
  • I've seen a number of people on other platforms (Quora, for one) complain of a hostile culture here. While an experienced member may look at a vague newbie question with hardly any details and downvote and laugh behind their keyboard at it's absurdity, while leaving a cold, assertive comment - I think it's worth thinking about how the asker might feel about that. I mean, the rules already mandate the omission of words with negative connotations in the aims of not offending others, surely not responding harshly to new users is in the same spirit?
    – thephpdev
    Jul 27, 2018 at 15:37
  • I agree that downvoting can be demoralising to new users, and many users in general! But that's more or a sensitivity issue I guess, how sensitive should one be to being downvoted. If the downvote is accompanied by rudeness or belittling then that's an issue, downvoting itself... maybe one has to understand why/how it operates.
    – SaltySub2
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:13
  • 2
    @SaltySub I don't have issues with downvoting in general, just downvoting on questions of new users. They come to here asking for help, and the first thing they meet is something negative. "But that's more or a sensitivity issue I guess" - I've to disagree here, if we start considering users "over sensitive" then we just go back to where we've started before the new CoC Jul 31, 2018 at 8:06
  • 6
    Being downvoted hurts. Especially if you don't understand why the downvote is deserved.
    – jkdev
    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:41
  • I could not agree more and am very surprised that this is downvoted so much. Addressing this very issue is one of the best ways to keep this site relevant for new users. Alienating new users will eventually result in this forum becoming obsolete. I wish people saw this very obvious conclusion.
    – Andrew
    Jul 31, 2018 at 16:55
  • @Andrew: I agree! Hope mods will read this answer too and take into account despite the balance of votes. Jul 31, 2018 at 19:13
  • @MátéJuhász Yeah on that point it's kind of a UX thing really... Say I'm new, I come to a site asking a question, and I get downvoted straight away. Then I'd be like, what? Why did I even come here in the first place? New users would be taken aback and reallly from a UX perspective it doesn't quite make sense.
    – SaltySub2
    Aug 1, 2018 at 8:27
  • 2
    New users are subject to the exact same standards as established ones. They don't get a pass because they're new. Doing so really makes a dichotomy between the shift from new user to established. You vote on content. It doesn't matter whether a 100k user or a 1 rep user posts it. If it's bad, it's bad. Period.
    – fbueckert
    Aug 1, 2018 at 16:56
  • @fbueckert please see my update Aug 1, 2018 at 18:52
  • 7
    Voting has literally nothing to do with being welcoming. It's about content curation. You're still advocating for not being critical of new user's posts, which is something any long term curator is going to disagree with.
    – fbueckert
    Aug 1, 2018 at 18:57
  • @fbueckert so here we disagree. Aug 2, 2018 at 4:09
  • There is no a priori reason why people should react to downvoting more strongly than to upvoting. The solution is to find out what in the world out there makes people think a downvote is a big deal. Are users trained that way by YouTube or some other website? (Remember when YouTube used to have 5 stars but only 2 of them were really used?)
    – Nemo
    Aug 6, 2018 at 7:33
  • @Nemo: you're exactly right, down-vote shouldn't be a big deal, however users feel it is, and this isn't something we can change, especially not for new users. Aug 6, 2018 at 18:43

No bigotry. We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion -- and those are just a few examples. When in doubt, just don’t.

Totally approve of this message. I'd like to see another item on that list though:

  • Lack (or amount) of knowledge

The worst offenses I've seen on this site comes from people who feel that questions asked are beneath them, and yet take the time to complain about the intelligence of the poster and then explain why they won't answer the question.

I understand that this behavior falls directly under the "Be Nice" rule. Explicitly stating that treating people poorly - who have less knowledge - is also bigoted won't hurt the message and I believe would drive home the idea of why that behavior is destructive and not welcome here.


  • 1
    Forget this website; we're making a competitor site without CoC where people ask/answer for monetized tokens.
    – Joe Coder
    Jul 29, 2018 at 6:30
  • If you can monetize the usefulness of the answer, then let me know about this new site.
    – Andrew
    Jul 31, 2018 at 16:57

It's scary and unfair

Let's me explain. It says that we should be good and kind. OKAY.

But, at the same time, this "code of conduct" (that is a rule) put penalties, real penalties.

In the very first lines, it says "... and mutual respect". How is it mutual respect if we should be kind and the moderation/administration of StackOverflow could punish me because of some vague rules.

I'm not a lawyer but I can see a bad contract, and it is a bad contract.

I wish to see punishment for both sides!

enter image description here
This image is not a joke or sarcasm. It is straight! You are abusing, in the same way, that the character of this cartoon abused of his power.

  • 6
    Are you suggesting that the legal system shouldn't exist, because all laws are essentially just imposing punishments for arbitrary rules for things that someone decided shouldn't be allowed? Without punishment for misbehavior, the rules become meaningless. Why would someone take time to follow rules if there was no downside to disobeying them?
    – animuson StaffMod
    Jul 29, 2018 at 17:07
  • 1
    I don't understand how this is actually scary in any real world sense. This site is not about the ultimate service of self-expression without penalty or consequence. That's hedonism. This site is devoted to the sharing of useful knowledge regarding software development and practices. Anything that doesn't advance that notion should have no place here. Additionally, how much does it cost you to stay respectful while sharing information? How much information have you gathered from other people? Were you always rude to them?
    – Andrew
    Jul 31, 2018 at 17:02
  • Lambs should obey, moderators must do whatever they are pleased. How is it fair? People are dumb to accept such rules, it is clear. The legal system should exist and must be fair, i.e. politicians, cops and citizens must follow it. I never say that it must be an anarchy. sheesh.
    – magallanes
    Aug 8, 2018 at 18:22

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