It seems to me that the "Code of Conduct" tramps down on freedom of expression. It also undermines what being friendly represents. And all this to no real benefit to the community as far as the purpose of the site and the quality of the content are concerned. Even worse, likely done to its detriment.


“You could Google this in 5 seconds.”


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

Now, the first form might not be overly polite, but it does state a fact. And it doesn't incorporate any pejoratives, that some might argue are well justified, because ultimately, scolding can be useful to discourage OP laziness, whereas facing it with such "friendliness" may even encourage it.

“You could Google this in 5 seconds.” is not unfriendly just because it isn't overly friendly, it is at worst concise and neutral. And call me old-fashioned, but I think friendliness is something that one express towards friends, not random strangers too lazy to do a basic search. And finally, forced friendliness is insincere and fake. Who needs that? Is that the purpose of SXE? Or was it something about sharing knowledge?

One cannot really get offended unless one chooses to get offended, guided by desire to feel or present oneself as victimized. No logical response to any statement should ever result in taking offense. If the statement is false, it merits no further attention, and if it is true it is something that you either can or cannot address, in case of the former, the course of action is to address it and take a lesson and self-improve, in case of the latter it once again merits no further attention. There is absolutely nothing reasonable in taking offense, and nothing to be gained from it, it is 100% non-productive.

Letting emotions and insecurities cloud logic and reason. This is a weakness that shouldn't be facilitated, much less nurtured. And there is no amount of imaginary sensibilities that make surrendering to that weakness worth it.

When friendliness is enforced - people get spoiled; that's just how humans work. Be exclusively kind and people get on your head. In this regard, forced friendliness encourages offense taking and discourages logical processing of statements that may lead to self-improvement.

“You could Google this in 5 seconds.” - I would definitely tell that to a friend. There were times I didn't, and it ended up spoiling people and poisoning relations, no matter how many times and how carefully I explained that the answers I provided most of the time were literally the first hit returned from a basic search. Why bother searching, much less developing the basic skill to formulate decent searches, when someone else can do it for you? That's where being nice gets you a lot of the time, even with people you actually know and are friends with rather than Internet strangers.

Is SXE the central authority that defines what "friendly" is?

I do recall a particular case about a Muslim participant who opened his question as is customary, or possibly even culturally and religiously mandatory, with something about "the name of Allah", which immediately got that user scolded, downvoted, promoting an even more toxic response, ultimately resulting the user being banned on the first post... for being friendly as defined by his cultural and religious customs.

That user was friendly enough to invoke the name of the creator of all (including this site) to the prosperity of the community, in much the same way the faithful greet one another.

Was it friendly for users and the staff to chastise that user in such a way? Insulting that which that person holds dearest above all else?

Especially in light of this:

No bigotry.

We don’t tolerate any language likely to offend or alienate people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion...

And yes, "pro-friendliness" user guidelines define stuff like "friendly" greetings as "just noise", which is as paradoxical as it is unfriendly. In fact, it goes even further than that; I can imagine it being utterly insulting to equate the name of god to "just noise", so much so that in many parts of the world it is likely to be met with utmost "swift justice", featuring "angry mob" in the roles of judge and executioner.

Also explaining the user's toxic reaction, amplified by the powerlessness to enact justice over the Internet. I do recall the user being infuriated that his holy greeting was edited out of the question, which he desperately added back until the end.

So friendly, to enforce friendliness in a place where friendly greetings are handled in such an unfriendly way. Oh, and also hypocritical.

I do realize that the site faces some problems which it tries to address by implementing certain new policies. But a lot of those problems stem from the loss of potent contributors, chased away exactly by those new policies. The community might be "growing" nicer, but it isn't growing healthier and more productive, not in my observation at least.

Avoid sarcasm and be careful with jokes

Irony and sarcasm are important literary techniques that add flavor to communicating, but more importantly, they also play an important role in promoting development of character and social diversity.

I know lots of exceptionally knowledgeable and skilled people, in all sorts of fields, and many of them are rather eccentric and free-spirited, and what's "worse" but also understandable - cynical proportional to their intelligence, exactly the non-conformist kind of people that are more likely to simply walk away from being helpful than being forced to conform to a forced, insincere and overly verbose form of "friendliness", especially when it is unmerited.

Laziness, zero effort and a "solve my problem for me" do not merit positive reinforcement; that stuff is plain out harmful. People are already nice and friendly enough to take from their time to help in their own unique way, but now they should also conform to how someone feels like this should be done?

I would certainly rather stop contributing, by which I lose nothing, rather than lose the freedom to be myself. And in the end, it is the community that loses.

Consider this if the site is indeed about the community and not about monetizing it... The amount of new "original content" is dropping sharply, and newcomers keep on asking about either trivialities or wide scope problems they really shouldn't be asking. I don't see how being nice will improve those, while I definitely see how it makes things even worse. On top of the highly ethical dilemma and the very inappropriate enforcement of what is essentially a harmful socio-political agenda.

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    "No logical response to any statement should ever result in taking offense." Right. Because human beings are, and of a right ought to be, beings of pure, unemotional logic. Well, my logic tells me that wishing for this to be the case will not make it so. As such, rather than pretending that we're something we aren't, we should adopt rules and behaviors recognizing these facts. Hence the CoC. – Nicol Bolas Aug 9 '18 at 4:21
  • @NicolBolas you can have emotions without being a slave to them. The purpose of emotions is about driving people's actions in a toxic direction as much as the purpose of hunger is to drive people into obesity. Misuse backfires BAD. You just cannot fake or force reason like you can fake and force being nice. And just in case you haven't realized it, wishing for this to be the case will not make it so and ` rather than pretending that we're something we aren't` applies far more in the context of mandating unmerited friendliness than it does to the context you put it in. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 7:52
  • I do respect people's rights to misuse and undermine what friendliness represents and regress for it and don't discriminate against anyone on those grounds, but that cannot be said about the other side - I see that I am being discriminated against for stating that friendliness is something that should be used responsibly and with moderation in a healthy way. That is neither nice nor friendly, and goes exactly to prove my point. In the end, confronting mental weakness is healthy, conforming to mental weakness is toxic, as simple as that. Which directly translates to the community as a whole. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 8:21
  • You're trying to use the "you guys are supposed to be so tolerant, but you don't tolerate the intolerant!" defense. Well... guilty as charged. If you want an open, constructive community, that means banning non-constructive behavior. Comments of the sort you're defending are just bile, people venting and raging against others. That's not something that needs to be here. If you have a community that spews bile at everyone who does anything that community doesn't like, then you have a community that only people tolerant of bile participate in. That is neither nice nor friendly. – Nicol Bolas Aug 9 '18 at 13:45
  • @NicolBolas mind enlightening me what's intolerant about my post? And who is the arbiter of what is constructive and what isn't? That varies from person to person. I can find it constructive and motivating to be told that I am fat, others will chose to take offense regardless of how mildly and overly friendly they are presented with the fact. There is no bile in calling out the lazy as "lazy", it is true, concise and straight to the point absent noise. It is not intolerance of the intolerant, it is intolerance of the different, in favor of tolerance and promotion of the toxic and artificial. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:06
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    If you know that calling a person "lazy" will in no way motivate them to not be lazy, then there is no logical purpose in expressing that sentiment. Therefore, the only reason to do so is to make yourself feel better. Hence "bile". "It is not intolerance of the intolerant, it is intolerance of the different" No, it isn't. We're tolerating different people, but not those who refuse to be tolerant of others. And you seem to forget that these rules aren't new. The CoC may be spelling them out more, but these kinds of things were never considered acceptable under "Be Nice". – Nicol Bolas Aug 9 '18 at 15:30
  • And telling a person that it is pouring rain in no way motivates them to take an umbrella, right? Nah, too lazy to think about what people say, which is why we must explain in detail. I actually agree that explanation is important, at least from personal perspective, I myself rarely stop at "this is dumb", it is usually followed by a "because...". The problem however is that in the vast majority of cases the explanation ends up a wasted effort. The people likely to be willing to understand it wouldn't act in a way that remits scolding in the first place. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:44
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    If you genuinely cannot tell the difference between calling someone "lazy" and telling someone the weather, then there can be no productive end to this conversation. You are demonstrating the very unwillingness to understand problem that you dislike. – Nicol Bolas Aug 9 '18 at 15:48
  • "You are lazy" is not an insult, it is an observation, it is informing one of one's flaw. It is a problem. Problems need to be noted and admitted in order to be addressed and solved. I think that should go without saying. It we create an environment in which this must be pointed each and every time, this will not really help people solve their problems, we are just nurturing a weakness instead of expelling it. Coming down at that level is pointless, because people cannot really see the problem while they are trapped in it. What works is pulling people up from that level. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:48
  • If you cannot see the analogy and how perfectly it applies to both cases, you are just seeking to weasel out by begging the question. Calling someone lazy should suffice, and you are just promoting the state of "mind" in which it is OK to not suffice, a state in which nothing really suffices. You are spoiling the people you believe to be willing to help and taking away their chances, because nothing good or meaningful in this world comes easy, if you haven't noticed that, you most likely have been living under a figurative rock. Life is a struggle, not a circlejerk. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:49
  • I am now definitely not a person who pushed for a new CoC and I am also quite known to be very direct. Problem is: SE is used by extremely different people coming from different nationalities, cultures and experiences. What some see as compliment see others as insult. Talking with other people here means that you must be aware of this and adjust your communication style so you can talk with others with minimum cause of friction and, even more important, have a way to resolve a conflict if you unknowingly hurt your counterpart. [1/2] – Thorsten S. Aug 9 '18 at 20:32
  • One important thing for successful communication is that your counterpart has every right to form the conversation as you have, so you need to find a way if your communication forms are different. If you come with "Hey, my truth and directness style is superior, so you must adopt it", many people will simply cease the communication and even worse, your approach will cause consternation and aggression. People are quite good to find out if someone makes effort to communicate (even from writing) and if you don't give the effort, well... [2/2] – Thorsten S. Aug 9 '18 at 20:38
  • The problem here is that the goal is to conform people to someone's ideas of being nice taken for granted, not because one wants to but because one has to. Whether or not that form of nice is actually constructive doesn't even seem to be important. The staff seems to even be willing to have people conform to it even if it is detrimental. As someone, whose primary motivation for being here is to help others, I have a problem being expected to conform to the opposite. The very notion that something can be intrinsically good or bad regardless of the context is plain out infantile. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 20:54

Well, Stack Exchange at the end of the day is the final arbiter of what content they host. Unlike many places though you've had opportunities, and a space to give your input, and the COC is a work in progress.

'Freedom of Expression' - in a sense, is a bit of a myth. At the end of the day - you're still bounded by community standards, laws and sometimes you got to draw the line. We've typically had slightly blurred lines that were a little wavy. This kinda makes it clearer, and presumably someone straighter. Be Nice has always been a core policy at SE and that has not changed, just that there's more words saying it.

In many cases, if you have nothing nice to say - say nothing at all. There's other ways to express your displeasure at a user - downvotes and in many cases, closevotes would just as well as yet another person asking whether they googled something.

In a practical sense though this frees you up to worry about the content you dislike, and on the sweet juicy, difficult problems you're really here for.

  • if you have nothing nice to say - say nothing at all which is practically only saying things people want to hear, which is very bad for everyone. Personally it is self-censorship, and ignoring opportunity to truly be of help, which the target audience loses. Truth should not offend, if it does, that is only because you are on the wrong side of it. Until people learn to want what they need, that thumbrule cannot really work, and people are still very far from that point in development. So what's most important is to always tell people what they need to hear. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 8:24
  • That would be analogous to only feeding a child candy just because that's what it wants to eat. If you hate that child and want to hurt it - sure, go ahead, and the child will probably love you for it, at least until diabetes. That's the fake and toxic niceness and friendliness that SXE attempts to enforce. But if you care about that child, which is what constitutes true friendliness and niceness, you are gonna make it eat healthy, even if it hates you for it. Being excessively nice is abuse committed by people who seek self-decoration, not people who really want to help. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 8:33
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    @dtech: "which is practically only saying things people want to hear, which is very bad for everyone." No, it isn't. You can say things people "need to hear" without being a jerk to them. Nobody "needs to hear" how long it would take to find the information on Google; that's not genuinely useful information to communicate. Just look at the difference between the friendly and unfriendly versions. The friendly version communicates actionable information; the unfriendly version is basically saying screw off. The latter is purely about expression frustration and venting at someone. – Nicol Bolas Aug 9 '18 at 13:33
  • No, you can't. I've tried it both ways. Regardless of how you put it, if it is something people don't want to hear, the brain interprets it as hostile, that's just how brain chemistry works. And the "feeble minded" that are likely to take offense of rude but legit criticism are far away from being able to overcome the brain chemistry in pursuit of a direction that will eventually prove to be beneficial to them. Brain chemistry predates humans by aeons, and doesn't discern between quality and garbage, it protects anything that is in from outside information that conflicts with it. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:11
  • I've even tried explaining in academic format to people, backed up by references to peer reviewed papers and extensive analogies simple enough to be understood even by a child, and I didn't get any better response than I would have gotten from a format that 99.99% of the people would interpret as hostile insult. There is a huge difference between being a jerk and being seen as one because that's the brain's only-est means to "discredit" the validity of a point. People are often too nice to the detriments of others or themselves, and often mean well just to be seen as jerks for it. – dtech Aug 9 '18 at 15:13

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