Not really a question, but I don't know where else to post it and make sure it gets visibility. [1]

@StackExchange (or pardon me, I mean StackOverflow, Inc.):

You would do yourselves and the entire community a heck of a lot of good if you made it explicit what you require as opposed to what you prefer. Your Code of Conduct contains requirements (i.e.: we will kick you out if you don't do this), whereas your FAQ contains your preferences (i.e.: you "should" do this), and your preferences seem to form one heck of a bigger minefield for many people than your requirements.

To be honest, it almost seems to me that this line is being probably intentionally being kept blurry because you really want your preferences to play out instead of merely your requirements, but it's also creating a heck of a lot of misunderstandings and making the entire community freak out.

In fact, while this is just my hunch, I would go so far as to say that >70% of the opposition you're receiving is likely due to the fact that you haven't made this clear; you might have a lot more support for your requirements than you realize. So I would suggest you reconsider this approach.

[1] If you desperately need this to be a question: "What do you actually require and what do you merely prefer?"

  • 8
    Actually I think the small print in the footnote would make a great question. Oct 13, 2019 at 3:31
  • Feel free to change it to that. I couldn't bother myself to since (I think) I know what the answer is. (I also really think the answer should be in the FAQ rather than here, but I guess that doesn't preclude it being here too.)
    – user541686
    Oct 13, 2019 at 3:32
  • 1
    You could start by changing the question title to something meaningful... Oct 13, 2019 at 12:51
  • 2
    How about: "A clarification that might go a long way: What in the CoC is required and what is preferred?" Oct 13, 2019 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


This is a good and important question, but I think it's worth emphasising that until the debacle of Monica's firing is resolved, a large number of users simply won't trust that whatever is said will be enforced fairly and consistently.

It appears that what is "required" and "preferred" will change depending on the mood of the SE staff member making the decision.

These decisions will be made in secret, and then SE staff will close ranks and defend their own, even if what was done was as obviously wrong as completely ignoring and bypassing a long-standing moderator firing process.

There will be no way a user can defend themselves, or even find out exactly what they are accused of, because the most important thing will be SE staff members trying to shield each other from criticism, disagreement or accountability.

They need to demonstrate to us that this isn't the case.

I'd love to believe that the new CoCs were intended in good faith, as an honest effort to help the LGBT+ community that SE staff appear to be currently using as human shields and scapegoats for their own wildly unpopular botched actions (seriously, SE have unleashed a huge wave of hostility, and responded with a couple of half-hearted non-apologies, then strolling away into the distance humming to themselves).

All the evidence points to the contrary, however, and SE staff seem to be doing nothing to rebuild the years of trust they've burned.


I don't think we need further clarification on what is required and what is merely prefered. The language of the CoCFAQ is clear in that respect:

Q9: Do I have to use stated pronouns? A: Yes.

Q10: ... you must respect that and use them...

Q11: Explicitly avoiding [stated pronouns] is a violation of the Code of Conduct.

You can't be much clearer in saying that you require these things, while other things, like stating what your pronouns are, are clearly declared as being optional:

Q7: Are we going to force everyone to identify their pronouns? A: No. This is a voluntary decision.

Going from that, I think they thought enough about the wording of the FAQ items to make it clear which ones are requirements and which ones aren't.

IMO, what we do need is actual proof that compelled speech is necessary in order to be more welcoming and inclusive.

SE is presenting itself as a company that acts on data. They keep telling us how they've tested things and statistically analyzed their effects, for example here:

We appreciate all their hard work, and we’ve seen a reduction in the odds of a new comment being detected as abusive go from 2.6% of new comments down to 1.3%

But on the question of whether stack overflow has a bigotism problem, the proof is the following (paraphrased until I find Jon's original blog post): "When users are telling you they're feeling hurt, that's it. You're done".

That's pure sentimentalism.

Now there are enough vocal people on Meta saying there is a problem, and who am I to say that just because I haven't encountered it much in my time here, it's not important? So I can see you want to act on such user feedback. In fact I think its what the community wants, as a general rule: That SE reacts to feedback.

But there is not even an attempt to explain, let alone prove, how Q9, Q10 and Q11 are a) necessary and b) sufficient to remove bigotism from this site

If you compell people to defer to others in how they speak, then I think you should present your reasons (not just opinions or feelings of why it's good) to do this, and back them up so they can stand up under scrutiny.

  • There are more Q's than Q7/9/10/11...
    – user541686
    Oct 14, 2019 at 8:53
  • Yes, and I address that in the "Going from..." paragraph. Oct 14, 2019 at 9:01
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    I thought the requirements are only the content of the CoC. Basically all from meta.stackexchange.com/conduct. Is the FAQ to the CoC also kind of part of the CoC? Oct 14, 2019 at 9:13
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    The FAQ explains how to interpret the "use stated pronouns" COC requirement (and clarifies a few other things), so yes, if you want to compy with the CoC, you need to know about the relevant FAQ items because otherwise you might find yourself in violation. Oct 14, 2019 at 9:22
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    For example, "use stated pronouns" in the CoC would't necessarily get interpreted as " don't avoid pronouns"; it could just mean "don't use the wrong pronouns" without the FAQ. Oct 14, 2019 at 9:24
  • Maybe the FAQ, once it's stable, should be included or directly linked from the CoC. And everything that reads "should" should either be removed or converted to must for the sake of clarity. Oct 14, 2019 at 22:24

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