At some point, "assume good intent" was removed from the Code of Conduct.

It's a key pillar of the social contract and how we choose to deal with each other. It belongs in the Code of Conduct.

PLEASE add this back.

It's been brought up that I asked for this in the feedback for a previous revision of the CoC as well. Since I was clearly so much more articulate and energetic then - for your consideration.

Or alternatively Presume good intent, as Gilles brought up in the comments.

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    While I love this post came here to write this very same thing I also wonder if its totally futile. SE seems to have stopped listening to users as evident by the fact that they just put the new CoC "into production" with no community input. A far cry even from where we used to be Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 1:13
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    Although “assume good faith” is traditional, Ben Kovitz makes a good point that “presume good faith” would be more accurate. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 7:29
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    "AT some point" when did this happen? With this new edition of the CoC, or with a previous edition? Was in the 2014-10-14 version
    – Raedwald
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 12:11
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    Apparently the 2018 version. I was surprised too! Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 12:14
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    Jeff Atwood thought so. Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 19:47
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    In practice, assuming good intent means to interpret the other person's words and actions in the best possible light. Many people are unwilling to do that.
    – Ben
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 18:23
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    Is there anything stopping individual SE sites adopting this guideline as an individual site policy even if SE doesn't want to legislate it from above? Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 20:15
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    Yes, we desperately need assume good intent back in CoC... I thought it does not need to be explicitly written, because we can keep that thought alive, but somehow it got lost in the meantime. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 23:11
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    Ironicaly, the CoC now says " Those who don’t follow the Code of Conduct in good faith may face repercussions".... it's turned a positive thing into a poorly veiled threat. Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 17:33
  • We have updated the Code of Conduct
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Commented Jun 24 at 17:58
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    @Bella_Blue - And yet this is still a relevant question, as it's not found in the current iteration of the CoC. There are a couple lines that are based on the spirit of the request - I should know, I helped write them - but the main bulk of the request is still applicable to the CoC today.
    – Mithical
    Commented Jun 24 at 18:42
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    I think practically - the update didn't really address this and the 'fundamental' underlying point, that that aspect of community culture was put aside and the arguments for and against it seem relevant. I can understand a status denied tag (which would be sad but technically correct) , but we're a far way from the need to remind people to trust each other least a little being 'no longer reproducible'. I'd say many of the issues brought up here explicitly and implicitly are still in play in general Commented Jun 24 at 22:58
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    @Bella_Blue Removing status tags without actually adding a resolution breaks trust in the entire process of escalating things for review in the first place. As it is right now, it looks like you just gave up and can't be bothered to review it anymore: If the feature request is declined, just use [status-declined].
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Jun 26 at 1:56
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    @Bella_Blue I didn't mention closing: Closure is a completely different tool (one which was almost immediately undone by the community) and should not be a replacement for proper tagging. You removed a status tag, and didn't replace it with a new status tag. That puts this "feature request" back into limbo, instead of resolving anything. If you do think "norepro" is the appropriate response, then use [status-norepro]. If you contend that the new COC did resolve this, then [status-completed].
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Jun 26 at 13:00
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    @goldPseudo "in the post history, the only recorded reason for your closure is "Not suitable for this site" which I doubt is what you intended at all, and comes off as incredibly dismissive for a feature request with this much support." I was unaware it only recorded that. That is frustrating and I understand what the perception was, and I appreciate you understood that was not my intent. These other tag suggestions do seem like better options. I am thinking about which is most suitable, thank you :)
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Commented Jun 26 at 14:06

10 Answers 10


This was always the most beautiful part of what we've been trying to build here for the past decade or more. It reminded us to always try for a charitable interpretation and not jump to conclusions. It helped us put things in perspective and talk to people instead of just branding them as evil.

Please put it back. This is the single most effective way of ensuring an inclusive environment: assume good faith! It's simple, catchy and a principle we should all live by in our everyday lives.

The world entire, let alone SE, would be a better place if we all remembered to assume good faith. Removing this from the CoC can only make things worse.

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    They really are words to live by. Even if I often forget, they come to me eventually, internally or externally. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 0:47
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    Sadly, "assuming good faith" is entirely incompatible with "if you use the generic 'he' you are being deliberately offensive."
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 19:39
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    Nah, leave it off the CoC. They clearly know that they're making it impossible for users to assume good intent on SE's part, and nobody wants to turn the entire user base into CoC violators.
    – user541686
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 1:02
  • @Mehrdad Unless you understand how to use (pick a martial art) the opponent's energy against them. ;-) Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 1:01

Yes, we should put "assume good intentions" back. To give some background, I quote from Gilles's excellent answer about the changes to the policy:

The old “be nice” policy told us to

Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions.

This was an instance of the “assume good faith” guideline that many inclusive communities live by. The new code of conduct tells us to

be patient and welcoming

but “assume good faith” has disappeared. We are increasingly encouraged to take offense, whether offense was meant or not. Today's change additionally tells us

don’t use language that might offend or alienate

You're guilty even if you did not mean any offense. You're guilty even if nobody takes offense! You're guilty if someone might take offense.

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    "might" is the operational term there. Literally anything "might" offend someone.
    – user316129
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 17:59
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    “You’re guilty if somebody might take offense.” Honestly, I don’t see that enforced too much on some sites (politics SE), but then again if anything on politics SE that somebody might take offense at was deleted there would be very few questions left. Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 14:44
  • politics.SE shouldn't exist. the SE format demands that it pretend an authority and objectivity that is inherently impossible, and the fact that it is a SE site causes it to draw a crowd with a stark and obvious political bias. Commented May 28, 2022 at 14:13

Do not be quick to take offense...
Ecclesiastes 7:9

Also, do not take to heart every word that people say...
Ecclesiastes 7:21

My interpretation of this ancient advice is that we should assume good intentions. I agree with this advice and agree that it should be added back to the CoC.

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    As an atheist, I usually quote biblical references myself. I find their wisdom effective, at least when taken in isolation. Have an upvote.
    – Marc.2377
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 7:20
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    +1 and might I add "That which does not destroy me, serves to make me stronger" -Nietzsche ......I've been called every name in the book over the years. You can never stop people from offering offence, but you can always chose not to take it.
    – user316129
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 18:01

I not only want to echo the sentiments of those who want this phrasing restored, but I would also like to elevate Ben Kovitz's comment on a different post:

@KateGregory Properly it should be "Presume good faith", i.e. assume it until demonstrated otherwise. You are quite right that trolls abuse the assumption of good faith—and they should be run out of town precisely because trust and good faith are so essential to community. – Ben Kovitz 9 hours ago

I'd also point out a Lexico post about the differences between assume and presume. I concur with the idea that we should "presume good faith" - I believe it to be true that most people will act in good faith. If you take a random sampling of the world, the probability will be that a person won't be a troll or other malicious actor and therefore we should treat them as such until there is evidence otherwise.

Also, if I was going to put it somewhere, I'd put it right in the "Our Expectations" box:

Presume good faith.

Don't jump to conclusions about other people. Mistakes happen and can often be corrected with reminders.

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    I have awarded my bounty to this answer, because it addresses the concerns about trolls who abuse the assumption of good faith. Any sufficiently large community has its trolls. And by their very nature, they'll find something to troll with. That must not stop us from having something beautiful. Instead, we must protect the beautiful thing (the assumption of good faith), by dealing with trolls appropriately. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 19:07
  • Funny, a mod referred me to this question even though the behavior we were discussing is far beyond the point where good faith can be reasonably assumed. This difference in wording described here is not insignificant — it allows two observers of the same behavior to have confidence that the other will suspend their presumption upon the introduction of challenging information. More than being less exploitable by trolls, it increases the likelihood that we are talking about the same thing. I am grateful for this answer.
    – Corey
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 18:06

I couldn't agree more. We need this.

A barrel full of pure AGF

And while we're at it, please also put back friendliness and kindness that have been stripped out of the new CoC. The terms are used and explained in the lower sections, and they should stay in the summary on top. In contrast, nobody really knows what "being inclusive" means, and it's just as unclear as "welcoming". Let's just say

Be kind, friendly and respectful.


Recently I was at a talk where the speaker, who was confident and funny, made a tiny little aside, just a few words long, that suggested, well let's say it was members of a particular profession or people who used a particular programming language or people who lived in a particular place, were somehow less than "us". It was nothing big, nothing to object to, the talk went on.

Then a few sentences later, the same comment, but this time a little bigger, a little more detailed, embroidered, harder to miss. A recurring joke, but now with more sting. Someone DMed me "those kinds of jokes are not ok." While I was agreeing with the DM, an even stronger version of the joke, really obvious and cringey now. And finally a fourth time before the talk was over. Complaints were made.

I've talked with a lot of people since about why I didn't do something at the first joke. Put up my hand and say "I don't think we need that, do we?" But you see, the first joke was really mild. If you correct someone when they've done something really mild, you're a snowflake who is just looking for offense and can't you just assume people mean well? If you let it go, for some people that is all they were going to say and that's an end to it. But for some people, they are emboldened - they hear the laughter, everything is going well, so they turn it up a little. And if you step in now you're still going to have people tell you that you're too sensitive. If you leave it until they say something that is clearly outrageous and upsetting, well now people are fine with you taking action but the people who would be hurt by it have been hurt. You didn't protect them.

Which brings me to this whole assume or presume good faith thing. It is one strategy a community can use when setting up codes of conduct and similar rules. It's important in an international community like ours to understand that some people may be working in their second (or 5th) language, may live in a place with different attitudes to gender and to inclusiveness, may be operating under constraints we don't know about. That's true. It doesn't mean it's ok for them to do things against the CoC though. It just means they should be corrected rather than punished. For example, a post that misgenders someone should be edited -- whether it did so knowingly or not. You can't leave it uncorrected just because the poster didn't mean to offend, didn't know any better, doesn't have pronouns like that in their first language, or even doesn't believe that someone's gender is what they say it is. (And note, comments are only editable by moderators, or the OP for 5 minutes, and typically it is comments that mention one user to another: "Did you try Kate's suggestion? He's usually right" sort of thing.) When a CoC violation can just be edited out, that's what should happen. Any issue of intent is irrelevant.

But of course not all CoC violations are honest mistakes. The Internet is full of people wringing their hands about decent, honest, hard working folk who accidentally offend a snowflake and suffer terrible retribution. I care far more about decent, honest, hardworking folks who wanted to understand their error message, but they instead got a dose of exclusion, othering, or unwanted religious advice. We're so busy pretending that it's fine to be cruel to people as long as you didn't do it on purpose or didn't know any better, that we forget what happens to people who read this stuff. Where is the good intent for them? We're having giant debates all over meta where apparently it's now cool to explain how your religion says you can't recognize trans people as who they are because that would mean God made a mistake. Why are we doing that? How is that making the internet better?

And then there are the trolls. Trolls love places that tell us all to assume or presume good faith and intent. They love riding the very edge of appearing polite while actually being cruel as can be. They're "just asking". They imply that people's pain is nonexistent or unimportant or both. They demand proof over and over. They keep saying things like "don't you want to learn from people who disagree with you?" and "surely we're all here to grow and learn" and "but you have to respect my beliefs if you want me to respect your beliefs" and all kinds of polite and reasonable sounding things. Sandwiched in with "but we all know women just don't like programming the way men do" or "you can't force me to say God is wrong" or "marriage should only be between a man and a woman" or just misgendering someone on purpose to be mean.

It sounds great, let’s assume the best of people and not be quick to take offense. Let's give people a break and look past their words to what they said and all work together to understand this error message. It sounds great. But in practice it means that people who feel hurt and excluded, who feel that every day someone tells them they don't belong in their profession, are told to "suck it up" and "look past that" because surely the person didn't mean to offend you. Well, who cares? They did. Do something about it. Edit the "mistake" or the deliberate cruelty away, show the person "you do belong here and we won't let people talk to you like that." Stand up for people who are being hurt instead of for people who are hurting, whether accidentally or on purpose. (You don't have to punish those who are hurting people; just stop leaving their stuff there because they didn't know any better.) Quit defending offensive material because it was probably done in good faith.

Here's an article that goes into more detail on why assuming good intent can actually work against inclusion. Some quotes I found relevant:

people telling you to ‘assume good intent’ sounds like they’re really telling you to shut up. That your feelings about getting stomped on all the time don’t matter. That no matter how sore your foot is, how much money you’ve spent replacing ruined shoes, how many times you’ve limped on broken toes, you still have a responsibility to worry about the feelings of the people who are hurting you.


Addressing incidents as if they’re simple conflicts between the parties involved sets up a false equivalence between dealing with discrimination and dealing with the momentary discomfort of being told you hurt someone.


Telling people to ‘assume good intent’ is telling them that no matter how badly they hurt, they still need to smile and be nice so the person who hurt them won’t feel blamed.
This creates a double standard. Alicia must assume good intent from Fred, even if he stepped on her foot because he was helping himself to her personal space in a way he would never do to another man. But when Alicia reacts out of shock, anger, and pain, the ‘assume good intent’ rule allows Fred to cast that as something Alicia has done at him, rather than seeing it as a very normal human response to being hurt.

It is a good article and if you haven't been actively working on inclusion issues recently, it's possible you will learn a great deal from reading it. It is very difficult for people who are not constantly being poked, prodded, corrected, neglected, and pushed aside to understand what life is like for those who are. Like all kinds of privilege, setting it aside to empathize with those who have had specific hardships is difficult. I think it's worth doing. As long as we keep saying "he didn't mean it" and wringing our hands about poor innocent people who didn't mean to offend, and hypothetically what if someone got banned for an honest mistake, we are ignoring the people who really got hurt (again) and who left and who also were innocent, but apparently should just suck it up and not complain (or be super super polite and gentle when complaining, making sure to protect and care for the poor innocent user who has just hurt them, on purpose or not) then we are continuing to enable people to be poked, prodded, corrected, neglected, and pushed aside and what's more, we're saying we don't really mind as long as it's not deliberate, malicious, and repeated. I don't want to say that.

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    I think there is a disconnect here. Assuming good faith does not mean (to me at least, please correct if there is some other definition) we can not correct mistakes. It does not mean we always assume people are good even if its their 15th troll attempt. It doesn't mean we have to take obvious crap. It just means we don't whip out the ban hammer the first time we see something we take offense to (unless its something really bad). I want to restate a question from my previous question: If we do not assume good intent, what is our default stance? Do we assume bad intent? Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 14:36
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    When I complain about small things (in case they are the first step in an escalation) I am often told not to look for offense, to ignore it, and so on. It is not corrected either. Generally the reason I am supposed to let it slide is because "the person didn't mean it" is taken as the default until there is very strong proof otherwise. I argue that "the person didn't mean it" is a good argument against punishment, but not against fixing it and not against telling the person it is wrong. These paeans to a love filled past where we all got along and no-one looked for offense are wrong. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 14:46
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    I suppose there is our disconnect reiterated. As I mentioned, I don't believe assume good faith precludes fixing. If you see something wrong you should be free to raise it as an issue, and if people agree it should be fixed. Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 14:50
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    "When a CoC violation can just be edited out, that's what should happen. Any issue of intent is irrelevant." Absolutely! All we're saying here is that we shouldn't immediately presume bad intent. That does not mean excusing anything, it just means that our first recourse to anything objectionable should be an attempt to educate and not to chastise. It doesn't mean minor things should be ignored, only that we shouldn't immediately jump to the least charitable interpretation of a comment. Trust, but verify, in essence.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 18:15
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    @terdon I am not surprised that is what you're saying. But it isn't what a lot of people are saying and have said. I have first hand experience with "assume good intent" being 1:1 translated to "don't complain; they probably had no intention to hurt you" and the content stays, in some cases if the complaint is hotly worded the complaint goes. If anyone considers putting "assume good intent" back into a CoC they need to be really clear that good intent doesn't make offensive content inoffensive, and there is not an expectation of "letting stuff go" on those who it hurts. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 19:07
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    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU I cannot thank you enough. Eloquently put and perfectly articulating what happens over and over in polite society - which can lead to death by 1000 paper cuts or in places like Ethiopia - plane slaying of your neighbour if the social and political climate is ripe.
    – user310756
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:11
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    @KateGregory if only the first joke had been made, and it had not been escalated, would there have been a need to correct it? Would it have been appropriate to stand up and loudly interrupt? Only with hindsight it became problematic, and it would be unfair to assume every person who made the first joke would go on to make the last one.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:15
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    @OrangeDog I know. That's why I didn't say anything. But whenever you decide something is over a line and you're going to say something, there will be someone who says you're being too sensitive and looking for offense. And someone else who says "relax, it was just a joke, no-one was trying to hurt anyone" and the content stays. It sounds warm and lovely to say "assume good intent" but it leads to things like meta.stackexchange.com/questions/335701/… -- trolling while claiming to be polite. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:19
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    @KateGregory Ok, then it's not really clear how the anecdote relates to the conclusion. I came away with the impression you were advocating zero-tolerance for any content that could be perceived as offensive (which taken to its logical conclusion, is all content)
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:23
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    @OrangeDog my point is that content doesn't stand alone. You decide based not just on what you're reading but on what came before. And no matter how you decide, someone will say you're being too sensitive. Someone will say you're looking for offense. Someone will say be nice. But leaving offensive stuff around isn't nice. Others have to read it. Punishing people for saying bad stuff is separate from clearing bad stuff away yet many people defend bad stuff and want it left in place because we should assume they meant well. I argue against this. Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 13:27
  • Excellent post. Let me note an observation about the "trolls" complaint in the next to last paragraph. Can't argue with the negative impact of what people say, but it would be inaccurate to characterize it all as using the opportunity to work in a little hurtful language. People on both sides of the issue minimize and dismiss the other position. It leaves people feeling that they need to explain why the issue is what it is for them. I think most people are looking for ways to interact constructively despite the differences, but people can't appreciate what it means to the other side (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 15:29
  • without understanding the what and why that makes it important. We don't want to dwell on the aspects of the other side that we find offensive, and talking about those can be uncomfortable. But there is still a certain amount of education that's important for understanding. A person making a conscious effort to treat you with respect despite the conflict with their own beliefs is meaningful in its own right. I'm not sure there's an easy, painless solution. Absolutely, there are trolls, but it's not all trolling.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 15:29

It doesn't belong there because it doesn't (currently) apply. Unfortunately.

A CoC covers all interaction on the sites, including interactions between the company and the users. Good faith is currently not assumed by either side in communications between the company and the community*.

Because the CoC is imposed by the company to the community, requiring that users presume good faith - or else! - would probably be received rather badly.

The solution is to build a CoC in collaboration with the community, then both sides would immediately be on board with a "good faith" clause. If that isn't an option, the company will have to lead by example and first apply the good faith policy to itself before it can demand it from others.

*The community presumes bad intent on the part of SE, mainly (but not exclusively) due to the whole Monica thing. And SE presumes bad intent on the part of the community, as can be seen for example by Sara's tweet where she thanks highly respected and deeply invested power users for leaving in protest of SE's questionable actions.

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    Unless it comes with a significant (and desperately needed) culture shift Ironically enough, these were Sara's own words: The goal here is an obvious one: we want to build a better culture (stackoverflow.blog/2019/10/10/iterating-on-inclusion).
    – dfhwze
    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 16:07
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    "Good faith is currently not assumed by either side in communications between the company and the community" I would go further; good faith has been explicitly shown to be absent, so assuming it would be illogical. Commented May 28, 2022 at 14:01

There is something similar in the Code of Conduct right now, and I'm surprised nobody brought it up here (emphasis in original, presumably because the CoC's drafters consider it important enough to highlight):

We take your reports seriously. Those who don’t follow the Code of Conduct in good faith may face repercussions deemed appropriate by our moderation team. This is how moderators generally handle misconduct:

To me, this is better than the prior "assume good intentions" guideline, because it shifts the focus to enforcement rather than a duty of the the entire community. It's in the spirit of Kate Gregory's excellent answer to this question: everyone doesn't need to assume good intentions all the time, and we can take simple actions to correct CoC issues (editing, flagging, comments, etc...) without a whole digression into determining intent first. It keeps the focus on the content, not the users. It doesn't, as one proposal suggests, require we have "enough evidence to suggest that someone may be a bad actor" before flagging something; we just flag when we see a problem. And nobody can use it as a shield to argue that violations should be left up because they were made with good intent.

The point of the policy is that the entire community doesn't need to try to understand someone's intent; we can just get on with the content and leave the question of sorting out a user's intent to the moderators.

But when it comes to actual enforcement actions like warnings and suspensions, the code tells moderators to apply them to those not following the CoC in good faith. Which is also important: people acting in good faith have the leeway to make mistakes and be forgetful, as we all do, without facing repercussions. And moderators, as opposed to the entire community, are in the best position to make the decisions about what is and isn't good faith; they have tools that can help them and those are the difficult decisions we elected them to handle.

Note: if your response to this is some variation of "but they didn't follow that with Monica," then I don't have enough information to truly know whether you're right or wrong, but I do know that your complaint is with the awful process they followed and not the text of the CoC itself, which is the question here.

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    The difference is in how the moderation team interacts with users when trying to resolve issues vs general interaction Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 4:17
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    That's not the same at all. This says that people should follow the spirit of the CoC and not just the letter. It helps to tell rule-lawyering trolls that yes, their trolling is against the rules, since they didn't follow the rules in good faith. It doesn't help when people take offense when no offense was meant and this results in conflict that leaves both sides unsatisfied. Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 9:46
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    It is completely different. It doesn't ask you to assume good faith of people, it orders you to agree with the CoC, over just keeping it. And a "bad faith" accusation can suddenly get you punished without possiblity to defend yourself, as that's just he said/she said. If anything, this bit makes it even worse than it would be without.
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:13

It's a key pillar of the social contract and how we choose to deal with each other. It belongs in the Code of Conduct.

No, it does not. Be kind and respectful is sufficient.

First let's look at this from a "management techniques" point of view. When you define your career or project goals, you learn to follow the SMART criteria. M in there means: measurable. Now, nobody looking at your content can assess whether you "assumed good intentions" when you interact with another user. A moderator can look at your content, and try to neutrally judge whether your words were kind, or at least respectful. He has no idea what you thought about the other user when you wrote your text. So that rule helps nobody who is asked to enforce the rules and practices of the CoC.

And beyond that, also on the "social best practices" point of view: not useful. Seriously.

When you study the zillions of books about self-healing, spirituality, ... there are two things that you will find in any good book:

  • Avoid being judgemental
  • Distance yourself from the "outer" world

Meaning: as soon you start labeling people's intention (based on their content), you are potentially going down the wrong rabbit hole. It doesn't help you to label things "good" or "bad". The only thing that makes sense: to observe the feelings that you come up within yourself, to then determine for example "I find that other person hurtful or ignorant, so I better stop wasting my time here".

Which leads to the second bullet point: there is no point in speculating about others. The only person on this planet you can really know about: that is you. Making assumptions what others meant or felt is sometimes inevitable, but it shouldn't be your standard practice guiding theme!

Sure, when your job includes "explaining human behavior", then it can be necessary to make assumptions, in order to get "arguments". But that isn't what we folks are doing here!

Long story short: don't speculate about other people's intention. If they are "unclear", ask for clarification. If you find the conversation to be exhausting, say why, and consider ending it.

The comments are correct insofar assume good intentions is just a shortcut for "don't assume much, but assume people come in good faith, and are, in general, nice folks, ...". The problem with that: it requires interpretation. People going "what it actually means is ...". Which for me, is again: not a positive thing.

The CoC should be as precise as possible. And I don't see how assume good intentions really helps with that.

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    I always understood "Presume good intentions" to mean, not "Make big assumptions about people's intentions and presume them to be remarkably good", but "Don't make big assumptions about people's intentions, and if you catch yourself assuming someone's intentions are bad, remember most people are okay and just going about their lives, and it's much more likely there's been a misunderstanding and they're expressing themselves poorly, and much less likely that they're actively malicious". But "Presume good intentions" is much shorter. Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 11:07
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    Basically the text-based-communication version of Hanlon's Razor: never attribute to bad intentions what can adequately be explained by the fact that typing on a keyboard lacks all communicative nuance. Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 11:08
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    The mindset revealed here is that everything that is put into the Code of Conduct has to be something that, potentially, a user can be formally disciplined for getting wrong, by a moderator who can then cite the specific item. I very much dislike this idea, and find it incongruent with what the words "code of conduct" mean. No, a "code of conduct" does not need to be precise. If you want precise rules, call them rules. Commented May 28, 2022 at 14:00

Intent is not the only factor when considering bad behavior. Effect is just as important. If my behavior causes the effect of creating an unwelcoming environment, that effect is felt regardless of whether or not my intention was good. Many communities use this sort of "intent or effect" language in their codes of conduct all the time for good reason.

One essay that I end up coming back to again and again is WP:SPADE. Multiple communities I'm involved in are having this exact discussion, so that's kind of why.

Good faith is often used by bad actors as a shield. I'm not behaving badly and how dare you accuse me of that because you should be assuming good faith. I'm not being disrespectful to people, I'm merely Asking Questions.

At the end of the day, the rule of thumb I use is as follows: assume good faith, but know when you're being bullshitted.

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    Yes, effect is important, but so is intent. If someone with good intent says something which results in bad effect, then a simple conversation with a mod should follow, the person can learn, and not repeat the mistake. There is no reason to ban such a person. If there is bad intent, then real punishments are warranted. And especially in private chatrooms like the Teachers' Lounge, Asking Questions should be allowed.
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:15
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    @Gloweye I think you will find, if you literally read the first sentence I wrote, that you need to consider both intent and effect, not just effect, and especially not just intent.
    – Unionhawk
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:25
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    I've read it, and I can see where you're coming from. However, I don't agree with you on how important effect is unless it's a repeat offender. Perhaps because I'm used to being thick-skinned. And the fact that good faith is used as a shield by bad faith people does not invalidate that there are also people making honest mistakes.
    – Gloweye
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:30
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    @Gloweye nor does it invalidate that simply saying "I didn't mean to" does not erase harm caused. That said, I'm wholly disinterested in reopening this more than a week old thread, so I bid you good day.
    – Unionhawk
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 11:37
  • Actually, good intent doesn't make a bad effect any better, but assuming good intent makes the reaction better. Assuming good intent allows me to edit a post to improve it along the assumed intention, while editing an intentional offense is likely to cause an edit war. From everyday life we know that starting a complaint with »You probably didn't notice ...« gives people a chance to adapt their behaviour, while »Stop doing ...« rather drives them into a justifying defense.
    – Philippos
    Commented May 22, 2023 at 10:27

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