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I am wondering if I am going to be punished for posting answers (I rarely post questions) or comments and decline to make any response at all to comments and decline to edit or update the answer in response to either ?

The reasons for wanting to do this are :

  • SE does not pay me and my time is valuable to me. If SE want perfect copy then pay for it. Certainly SE seems to plan to make money from my posts. If SE isn't paying then surely the amount of time I am willing to devote to the process is entirely my own choice.

  • Other users can make or propose edits to my posts anyway. If someone wants a change they can quite simply make the edit and see if it's accepted. For users above certain reputation thresholds these edits do not even need voted approval.

  • I go on SE to help people with questions with what I (think) I know. I do not go on SE to help SE shareholders. Helping people is creating answers or commenting, it is not making edits to accommodate personal preferences which the members can in fact make themselves. I am not a copy editor.

The CoC Changes

This obviously is prompted by proposed changes to the FAQ which seem intent on making me a copy editor (unpaid) for SE and propose punishing me for not do so.

So can I simply add a declaration to my posts stating I reserve the right not to respond to any comments or edits ?*

and :

If this is currently allowed (before the proposed draconian changes come into effect) will I be allowed to do this after they come into effect ?

Again, ordinary users can make edits if they wish, so why would we be forced to edit for them ?

DO I in fact have any right to refuse to respond to credits (from SE managements point of view) or am I now required to respond to everything. Surely it's "must respond to everything" or "can respond to nothing or what you like".

We need clarification on what SE expect and will enforce.

Note : The appropriate tags for this topic are not clear to me. I made a best guess but someone with more clarity on this feel free to correct them.

Re Pronouns : I have stated my practical objections to this policy elsewhere. This question is not about that specific issue, but about when or if I can be held accountable for not responding to any comments or edits and if I can avoid being labelled as an offender by making a disclaimer. For the record I want a common sense application of the "be nice" policy and expect that to include gender respect.

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    Where are these citation taken from? What on earth in the FAQ makes you think you will be blamed for not maintaining your answers, or not following up on comments? The FAQ only forbids you to apply different treatments depending on the identity of the people you talk to (which, it's true, is certainly a problem to enforce), but if you choose to ignore all people, you're of course free to do so. I don't understand why people create imaginary problems, in addition to the actual problems. – dim Oct 18 at 8:27
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    @dim You ask where I get this idea from and then state where I got it from. It's the proposed CoC changes that make this an issue, not me. I want to get clarity about what is and is not permissible, which is not creating issues, but trying to prevent them arising. – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:35
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    In which sentences from the FAQ is there this ambiguity, exactly? I couldn't find your citations in the FAQ. Are we talking about this post? – dim Oct 18 at 8:37
  • @PaulWhite I often do not respond to comments or edits (as I am sure many do) simply because I'm busy. The pronoun issue is problematic as it seems I can be punished for just not having time (or interest) to edit something people could edit themselves. I don't get why this exception to common sense is being made and I think we need to know if it's a precedent for ignoring any or all comments or what do to not be held accountable for acting as if we were full time employees with nothing else to do but respond to these things. – StephenG Oct 18 at 9:04
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    @dim "FAQ only forbids you to apply different treatments depending on the identity of the people you talk to" - how is disengaging after I know someone's pronoun not different treatment? They can even see you are active on site and see you are responding to other users. – Piro says Reinstate Monica Oct 18 at 9:37
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    @Piro I'm not sure I interpret what you mean correctly, so I don't know what to say. In any case, I'm in no way saying whether the FAQ is right or wrong. I'm just saying the problem OP states here is not an ambiguity induced by the FAQ, and is imaginary. – dim Oct 18 at 9:50
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    @dim The proposed changes introduce an exception to the general rule (disengagement OK) with a presumption of "guilt" (for want of a better expression) being implied by disengagement. Also note that being able to respond to one or more posts or comments does not imply a user can respond to all of them. The changes seem to suggest (IMO) that replying to some things and not others can be automatically interpreted negatively - it's problematic and I suspect this "exception based" change will result in more exception based rules. That's my dilemma. – StephenG Oct 18 at 9:56
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    @StephenG To disengage, you need to have engaged. If you never answer any comment (which is what was stated in your question), you never engaged in the first place, so I don't see how you could possibly be blamed, whatever the FAQ says about disengagement (and, really, it doesn't say much about that, actually - the word isn't even there). – dim Oct 18 at 10:48
  • If you never answer any comment (...) you never engaged in the first place But if you create an answer to a post you presumably are deemed to have engaged. That seems logical to me. And given recent behavior by management I'd have to assume a very extreme interpretation of the rules by managers (as opposed to our normally sensible volunteer moderators) is a definite possibility. I'd love common sense to be restored, but that's not how things seem to be going. – StephenG Oct 18 at 13:08
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    @ScottHannen I personally want fewer rules, more generic rules and more sensibly deployed using the common sense of our volunteer moderators. It was working fine, and the old engineer's rule is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Apparently a much more legalistic definition of "broke" is now in vogue. I despair of sanity being restored. – StephenG Oct 18 at 14:14
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    FWIW, the last update said there would be little more emphasis on moderator judgment. That's the antidote to more and more rules. The number of rules you need is inversely proportionate to how much you trust peoples' judgment. Despite my facetious comment, I believe that judgment trumps rules. We need both. Each is an acknowledgment that the other is not perfect. The fact that we need either is a reminder that people are not perfect. Bottom line: We must function within the premise that nobody is perfect. – Scott Hannen Oct 18 at 14:30
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You can engage as you wish. Comments and edits are meant to help improve your post - and help others by improving your post. Technically - SE dosen't get any additional benefit from this. It costs them a few lines in a DB.

If you're so concerned about SE making money off your content, do consider that the very act of posting an answer gives the company content they are making money off of.

In fact this very question might be making them money.

You might as well just post on a blog or something, and deny them the revenue at all.

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    I am concerned about SE making money while expecting ordinary users to act as copy editors for them. SE management seem to think we're unpaid employees to be held to a standard of work that employees are. I consider that unreasonable. – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:23
  • @StephenG We are the product, they test policies and new processes here in order to gain insights how to improve their B2B product. – dfhwze Oct 18 at 8:25
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    They're making money off your content. You're basically wasting the effort of others who're equally unpaid by refusing edits. Comments. eh. Point being you're basically making an absurd stretch and hurting the wrong people. – Journeyman Geek Oct 18 at 8:26
  • But "other people"are not being hurt : they are free to edit. Any member is not required to specifically grant permission to edit - there is a community vote process for that even for member who do not have the reputation required to get edits automatically accepted. I see not "hurt" being caused. – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:39
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One bit that isn't adressed in the other answers is this quoted bit:

So can I simply add a declaration to my posts stating I reserve the right not to respond to any comments or edits ?

I think adding such statement is considered noise, and should therefore be removed, just the same as with salutations and thank you's.

  • Surely it is only noise if we know the policy is to allow this behavior by default ? – StephenG Oct 18 at 9:01
  • Does this comment suggest otherwise? (quoted in my answer) I agree with you it would probably be received as noise. – SecretAgentMan Oct 18 at 9:02
  • It seems to me the rest of the FAQ "criminalizes" disengagement. It's not clear to me where SE are going with this. How "accident" and "deliberate act of disobedience" are defined is problematic. I do not want to labelled as an offender by accident and I can't undertake to edits and respond to any or all requests (or demands as they seem to be now). Real clarity is required as to how we protect ourselves. – StephenG Oct 18 at 10:04
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As others have posted, you may disengage according to the CoC FAQ.

OP Asked: So can I simply add a declaration to my posts stating I reserve the right not to respond to any comments or edits?

tl;dr According to Tim Post ♦, no declaration is necessary. Catija's ♦ explanation of the don't do harm intent is similar: avoid declarations that escalate or provoke. See below for more details.


Tim Post's ♦ comment below provides a bit more detail and affirms disengaging for reasons other than obvious pronoun protest is acceptable.

Tim Post ♦: Disengaging is an option, and the reasons you do it are entirely up to you. As long as you don't disengage in obvious protest of someone's pronouns, it's really no different than just ignoring someone in chat, or muting someone on Twitter. But if disengaging in any way reveals to the person that your basis for excluding them is simply who they are, well, that's .. something we'd need to have a conversation about, especially if it kept coming up.
Source: Comment from Tim Post ♦ (SE Staff) on this answer.

Catija's ♦ major point seems to be to avoid causing harm by unnecessarily making a declaration that escalates the situation.

Catija ♦: You're always welcome to silently disengage if that's what feels correct for you. We actually often find disengaging is the best answer when you're in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Just be certain you don't do harm when you disengage by making a statement that you can not or will not comply with their request.
Source: Comment from Catija ♦ (SE Staff) on this answer.

This doesn't appear to reward a poster for "dumping and running" as the OP puts it but it does provide the answer to the question: "will I be punished?".

  • Doesn't this reward "dump and run" (which I do not encourage) and total refusal to engage (which is also not constructive) ? And if it's OK to disengage on some issues, why not all issues ? – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:36
  • @StephenG I've edited the answer to address your comment specifically. I'm not aware of any other CM / SE staff guidance on this specifically other than what I already included. If I find it, I'll add. – SecretAgentMan Oct 18 at 8:47
  • Thank you for the extra info. – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:53
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    I understood the complete opposite instruction from Catija's message. Which is it? [Just be certain you don't do harm when you disengage] by [making a statement that you can not or will not comply with their request.] or [Just be certain you don't do harm] when you [disengage by making a statement that you can not or will not comply with their request.] I took this to mean that if I am to disengage, I should do it silently – Calvin Khor Oct 18 at 11:52
  • @CalvinKhor You are right! My sleep-deprived brain misread that. Thank you! How's the most recent edit? – SecretAgentMan Oct 18 at 11:56
  • Well my english is not perfect (or american) so do check later. Lack of sleep is hell. Good night! (looks good to me) – Calvin Khor Oct 18 at 11:56
  • I've edited this post to correct my accidentally misreading. – SecretAgentMan Oct 18 at 12:00
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Nobody can force you to participate.

I don't think it's a good idea to dump a post on any SE site and subsequently just leave, but there are no rules against it.

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    I agree it's a bad idea to dump and run, but the proposed rule changes and management indifference to member input (IMO) seem to make this the only viable option to protest while (maybe) continuing to help ordinary members. I am exploring options and hope for clarity from management (but am not optimistic I'll get it). – StephenG Oct 18 at 8:22
  • @StephenG I think they even stated you're free to disengage. It might be a surprisingly reasonable middle ground: write your post as you normally would, and then when someone complains about a wrong pronoun (especially if it's already they), just disengage. Let the CMs edit if they so choose. – user622505 Oct 18 at 8:47
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    But can be forced to use neopronouns – gdoron is supporting Monica Oct 18 at 9:35
  • @gdoron: No, there's always the option of disengaging. – Cerbrus Oct 18 at 9:42
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    But disengagement can selectively be interpreted as an "offense", or so it seems to me. Whether it's considered an accident or deliberate is apparently decided by someone else (and that someone seems to be the offended party, as I understand it, which is problematic). It's a hornet's nest IMO. – StephenG Oct 18 at 9:59
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    It can, but the CoC allows it. – Cerbrus Oct 18 at 10:22
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You're free to not-do whatever

You're not free to do whatever. But typically most rules don't force you to do anything. Besides, it makes no sense to punish users for not responding to comments since on busy days I sometimes miss comment notifications because of how many I have.

You are free to write an answer and leave it there. However, consider this: Stack Exchange is a public forum (I say "public forum" because it's a forum that's open to the public, not a technical public forum in the legal sense) and content you contribute here is for the benefit of others accessing this forum. Stack Exchange provides the platform and in turn has to make money to run the servers and pay their workers, obviously.

If you're so worried about SE profiting off of your work, then don't participate here. Don't tweet either. Twitter makes money from you browsing or tweeting. Don't post on Quora, or Answers, or Yahoo Answers, or Facebook, or Instagram.

Any time you visit a site that runs ads, you automatically give them money at the expense of your time.

I try to respond to most comments on Stack Overflow solely because I write answers on SO to help people, and if comments are asking for questions for clarifications, I respond to those to help them. I respond to comments on CG&CC Stack Exchange because it's a hobby so I do all of it for fun, including looking at comments for improvements mostly or corrections.

If you ignore comments, you're likely going to rack up downvotes because if I see something wrong with an answer, I comment, but if I see something wrong with an answer with comments from months ago telling it that it's wrong, I downvote it to push it down because it's not helpful content if it's objectively incorrect.

  • if I see something wrong with an answer Unfortunately what's considered "wrong" now seems to include everyone's varied subjective opinion of what is "right" or "wrong" and not what is objectively factually wrong. If people downvote based on subjective personal notions of right and wrong we're heading into murky waters. Heck, look at the unexplained downvotes for my question - these people aren't even saying what they think is wrong. How in the blazes do I fix that ? I'm asking for guidance from SE, and I'm getting downvoted for that ! The site has gone to the dogs. – StephenG Oct 18 at 13:15
  • Contributing an answer is apparently not enough for SE. It seems we're now responsible for the subjective accuracy of posts, not just the factual. We're now required (or so it seems) to provide follow up edits for everything ? Or nothing ? Or just some things ? Why is asking for bloody clarity a problem for people ? – StephenG Oct 18 at 13:18
  • @StephenG You either agree with them and fix it, disagree with them and say why, or in many cases, if they're simply being abusive or rude, flag it and move on. If you are finding that subjective downvotes are comprising a significant portion of your reputation change, that usually suggests your content needs change, not the thousands of other users except you all being wrong. I get downvoted for absolutely no reason as well, and it doesn't bother me because at the end of the day I get upvoted more for delivering even mediocre content. – HyperNeutrino Oct 18 at 22:09
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    @StephenG "Subjective accuracy" is not a properly defined term and SE knows that; you're not required to do that. Disengagement has always been SE's philosophy to people you don't want to engage - it's better to ignore them and take the downvote, after all, than argue with someone who isn't going to change their mind anyway. And for the record, I downvoted your question, because it seems more like an angry anti-corporate rant than either a sincere question or a suggestion. – HyperNeutrino Oct 18 at 22:11
  • that usually suggests your content needs change, not the thousands of other users except you all being wrong Change your name to "hype" because we're not discussing thousands just a small number of people. And I can't change the content because those people don't say what they object to ! Honestly, do you think I'm supposed to mind read them ? Yes, I am angry and it's still a sincere question : the two are not mutually exclusive. – StephenG Oct 18 at 22:21

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