21

MSE is burning, there is fire everywhere. I'm terrified every time I write a question over here and I make myself ready for a fight every time I write an answer.

I don't dare to look at comments or answers anymore and, if I see a rude/abusive comment, I'm dreadful to report it in chat because I don't want to be shout out for it.

This is all wrong.

People should be able to ask a question on MSE without fearing to be scolded for it. They should be able to suggest new, unusual, ideas to be screamed at because people disagree with the premise of their question.

People should be able to answer a question and be done with it. They shouldn't have to fear endless criticism and fight and comments war.

Because, if people are afraid to ask good faith questions, if they are afraid to suggest anything, if they are afraid to answer questions, then they will stop doing it.

And I, strongly believe that every voice is valuable. That driving away people that are afraid of conflicts, people with low self-esteem, people with anxiety issues, that driving away all those people and even more is a terrible thing.

I want people to feel safe here, and I think you want that too.

I don't feel safe here.

So, what can we do, as a community, to help make this place a safer one?


Note that I'm not talking about Monica or Robert. I'm talking about regular users who see all those conflicts and hatred and are driven away by it.

Note that I'm also not talking about what SE Inc. or mods can do. The responsibility of all this isn't and shouldn't be on their own shoulders.

We, as a community, are the ones screaming and making this place unfriendly. We are the ones that are at each other throat. We are the ones that are fighting in comments, about comments, around comments.

Not SE Inc, not the mods, us, the community.


So, what can we do, as a community, to help make this place friendlier and safer again?

What can we do to make sure that, even if the mods aren't available, even if there are no diamonds around to erase all the bad things that are said, what can we do to make sure (as much as we can) that this place keep being safe and friendly?


Edit: To people wondering if it's a duplicate of What are the “spam” and “rude or abusive” (offensive) flags, and how do they work?, it's not. Flagging the way we are currently doing is definitively not enough to solve the current situation. We need other, better, outside of the box, solutions.

  • 5
    "... what can we do to make sure (as much as we can) that this place keep being safe and friendly?" 6 flags and it's auto-deleted, no mod needed. --- Possible duplicate of What are the “spam” and “rude or abusive” (offensive) flags, and how do they work? – Rob Oct 24 at 6:21
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    @Rob I do believe that we can do something more than just flagging the heck out of this mess (because, so far, it isn't even working) – BelovedFool Oct 24 at 6:25
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    @Rob While that is a potential answer to this question, it is not the only one, so that is not a duplicate. – duplode Oct 24 at 6:25
  • 1
    BF: No, only make valid flags and helpful comments / answers / questions. --- duplode, source link? – Rob Oct 24 at 6:27
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    @Rob Sorry, I don't really get what you are asking for. I just meant that you have suggested one approach among others to the concerns of this question. While it would be a valid answer, it doesn't exhaust the question. – duplode Oct 24 at 6:34
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    I think that SE has NEVER been a friendly place and probably will never be for obvious reasons. But it should be a place where people are respected. That’s the main point. – user Oct 24 at 7:22
  • I agree: MSE is a very unfriendly place right now. It's gotten to a point where a post is no longer judged independently from the person posting it. Some questions / answers are downvoted into oblivion just because a certain user posted them. This has to stop. – Modus Tollens Oct 24 at 8:00
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    Note that I'm also not talking about what SE Inc. or mods can do. The responsibility of all this isn't and shouldn't be on their own shoulders. As I fundamentally disagree with this, I consider your entire post irrelevant to fixing the problem. The problem is management attitudes : dictatorial, arrogant, censorship and a failure to live up to high words and promises. We cannot fix management except (maybe) by continued pressure. SE needs better managers, not better members. – StephenG Oct 24 at 9:35
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    MSE's problem is one of radicalization above all else. The environment has shifted to an intense desire to wedge between people, force unwelcomeness, emphasize group victimization, etc. In order to make this place safer we're going to need to grapple with the fact that MSE has been very rapidly radicalized. Until we have a strategy for rolling back that process, MSE will not be safe. That's not easy to do. I have thoughts, but nothing worth sharing publicly at this point. So, no complete answer yet. – Aza Oct 24 at 10:26
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    To be clear, "be nice" is not enough. Neither is "stay calm." Neither is "disengage." Radicalization is a process, not an event, and each approach the answers here take elide the real issue by believing that enough individuals acting in capacity can serve to correct a problem of this form. That's important, but it is not sufficient. – Aza Oct 24 at 10:33
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    "again"? I have been around SO and lurking here for a couple years. Neither of these places, especially meta has ever been 'friendly'. Dogpiling has been a thing on these sites for ages to the point where it is part of the 'accepted' culture. Weirdly enough, duplicate questions are frowned upon. Duplicate comments and answers are not. – Steffen Winkler Oct 24 at 10:51
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    "...They should be able to suggest new, unusual, ideas to be screamed at because people disagree with the premise of their question. ..." The voting is simply a dictatorship of the majority of meta users, which by itself is a minority of site users. Meta is a self-sustained bubble basically and not using meta is the only way out. You could though use the community wiki option to distance yourself from the content you have written. I wonder if this would make a difference in the treatment. I will try to use it more often in the future. – Trilarion Oct 24 at 10:54
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    @SteffenWinkler " Neither of these places, especially meta has ever been 'friendly'. Dogpiling has been a thing on these sites for ages to the point where it is part of the 'accepted' culture. Weirdly enough, duplicate questions are frowned upon. Duplicate comments and answers are not." You must have seriously misunderstood something there. The policies to aks always were always written out clearly, and available at the site's help centers. It was always clearly stated that SO is a Q&A site and not a discussion forum. Duplicates indicate a lack of research from OP's as required. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 24 at 11:03
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    Good question, I have no answer. It just keeps getting worse though. We are now arguing about the way we are arguing. Perhaps we need a Meta Meta Stackexchange (MMSE)? – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 24 at 14:43
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    @Trilarion - SE sites are designed to create a sort of competition among users (reps, best answers, bounties, close votes etc.) which can easily turn into bad feelings because your questions is put to n hold or your answer is downvoted. It’s all very well but it has little to do with friendliness. As for MSE I must say by personal experience it is the worst of all sites in that respect. – user Oct 24 at 15:19

14 Answers 14

68

You remember that old rule from the Code of Conduct (when it was 'just' a Help Center article)?

Be Nice.

That should still be your #1 priority. Whenever you state your opinion, please think twice about formulating it in such a way that it doesn't cause harm to others. If you can't, don't post it.

If you still see somebody posting something that is not nice (which is different from seeing an opinion that is not to your liking), comment on it, explaining that it's not nice and asking the author to reformulate it. Flags are useful, but as a last resort; authors of flagged and deleted comments/posts may get the idea that they're being silenced, which often leads to them posting more non-nice content.

There's another option in the new Code of Conduct which is IMHO used less often than it should:

If a situation makes it hard to be friendly, stop participating and move on

Or, equivalently:

Let's agree to disagree agreeably.

That phrase occasionally serves me well in real life to prevent matters from escalating. Of course, this entire thing is already a (pardon my words) cluster f***-up of epic proportions, but disengaging may still help to put out the small after-fires which are still happening everywhere. When both you and your 'opponent' have made their point, and it's clear neither side will yield, there's no point in insisting to have the final word.

If you see something that is blatantly rude/abusive or trolling, and you get the feeling ♦ moderators aren't around to deal with it, hop over to the Tavern on the Meta chatroom. It's always busy these days and people are (in my experience) quick to help with moderation tasks, especially the blatantly obvious cases.

  • Very true. When someone is busy with being angry, it's easy to forget about being nice, even towards other unrelated people. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Oct 24 at 6:13
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    As an addendum: Remember we're all trying our best. No really. People are mad. People are on edge. But its because we all care. A lot. So when you sit down and type something, think that there are people, real human beings, on the other side of that screen that care at least as much as you do. – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 6:23
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    @TheCog exactly. Or, as the Be Nice policy said it: "Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions." – Glorfindel Oct 24 at 10:06
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    +1 for “clusterf***-up of epic proportions” – Mari-Lou A Oct 24 at 11:18
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    It seems coordinated flagging in chat is frowned on, though – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 24 at 19:47
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    @DeNovo rightfully so, but blatantly rude/abusive and spam posts are an exception. We even flag the most obvious cases automatically. – Glorfindel Oct 24 at 19:55
  • @Glorfindel we're in a particularly heated moment right now. It seems like it is very hard for everyone to agree on what is blatant. I'd suggest not mentioning an intention to flag in chat right now, and certainly not asking for help getting something deleted. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 24 at 19:58
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    "comment on it, explaining that it's not nice": has the danger of feeding trolls: a troll can then turn around and accuse you of being "not nice" for accusing them of being "not nice". Then in addition to the original subject there is the meta subject of whether statement X is not nice, which is the noise and confusion that trolls want. So this requires some care. Flagging without commenting can be safer. – Raedwald Oct 25 at 8:46
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    "assume good intentions" is officially NO LONGER AN ACCEPTABLE SE POLICY :( – DVK Oct 25 at 23:46
48

From your question:

People should be able to answer a question and be done with it. They shouldn't have to fear endless criticism and fight and comments war.

And your answer:

So, if someone is specifically asking to not be talked to anymore then 1) we should respect their wish and 2) we could/should flag every comments that don't respect this wish as "No Longer Needed".

I strongly disagree. You cannot start an argument and then tell people that they can't argue back. That is not what the site is for. Putting forth an answer is in itself the start of your "argument", and it will be treated as such.

What you are essentially asking is "I want to be able to answer questions and spout my opinions, without those contributions ever being open to scrutiny". That is antithetical to SE's purpose. SE thrives off of incremental improvements. If a question is unclear or an answer is incomplete or inaccurate, it can be improved by the community (and by yourself) using proper feedback.

If you are putting a question, answer or comment out there, you should be prepared for possible criticism. It is your responsibility to make your contributions the best they can be.

If you want one-sided communication like that, I heard Twitter is still popular these days.

  • 2
    Are you saying that repeatedly addressing comments to someone after they have asked you to stop is OK (the OP said endless, which suggests that is what they meant)? That's not the same as them saying you can't argue back. You might want to clarify your intend. – Raedwald Oct 24 at 10:10
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    [1/2] A few things worth noting: (1) Comments are not the only means available for visibly scrutinising a post -- we also have votes and competing answers. (2) In particular, if an OP writes a poor post and refuses to engage with comments pointing out its problems, they will be left with a poor post that will likely attract downvotes, and so there still is accountability -- in such a case, disengagement has a cost. – duplode Oct 24 at 17:00
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    [2/2] (3) While constructive commentary and discussion on the merits of a post is a good thing, in practice it is not uncommon for meta comment threads to extend well beyond the point they become unproductive. When that happens, the usefulness of the discussion as a whole is compromised. Winning an argument when everyone else has given up on listening is a hollow victory. – duplode Oct 24 at 17:01
40

I'm terrified every time I write a question over here and I make myself ready for a fight every time I write an answer.

I don't dare to look at comments or answers anymore and, if I see a rude/abusive comment, I'm dreadful to report it in chat because I don't want to be shout out for it.

The melodrama does little to further the OP's cause. It is inappropriate for a place that professes itself to be a Q&A site

This site is all about getting answers.
It's not a discussion forum.
There's no chit-chat.

Welcome to Stack Overflow

Since September, @BelovedFool has posted several times with a common narrative. Namely, Stack Exchange is not a safe place for them, that it is, generally speaking, unfriendly to the LGBTQ+ community, that MSE users are basically unwelcoming and systematically flood the OP's inbox with hurtful, cruel, unsolicited messages.

Meta is burning with hatred and heinous speech and SE Inc. is nowhere to be seen.

But this is Meta, where a user posts a question that was also asked in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014… will be hit with 10 downvotes within the first 5 minutes and their question closed as a duplicate. This is Meta, the habitat of users who are programmers, mathematicians, developers, engineers, and academics because Meta is about statistics, rules, standardised policies, feature requests and finding solutions to software problems that are (or used to be) related to the platform. Meta is also the home of complaints and protests about announced changes in SE's policies.

This CoC is going to end up as a stick to beat up people with. We already notice a fair amount of unnecessary flagging, especially in chat. With the threshold for "offensive" now officially reduced to "at least one person found it offensive", expect more drama in the days to come. (July, 2018)

The above was a comment posted on We'd like your feedback on our new Code of Conduct!

It is the tavern where you will hear an irate 1 rep user, blustering against Stack Overflow's policy of anonymous downvoting, to be then instantly knocked-down with a -20 score.

To the downvoter: at least have the courage to make clear who you are and why you downvoted it. Or offer a better alternative. Have you missed the new Code of Conduct? source

Meta means murder, a newcomer needs to grow thick skin if they want to post something that goes against the grain and culture of Stack Overflow. They need a certain mettle to handle criticism; just look at the level of animosity that CTOs, CM leaders, Directors (mmm…) have had to endure in recent weeks, mostly in stoic silence. But with the exception of Monica Cellio, whose case is unique, I have never witnessed a Stack Exchange executive or its management be disrespectful or hurtful towards any user, while Community Managers (also paid employees) and mods (volunteers) have always sought, to the best of my knowledge, to be considerate, unbiased and helpful to any contributor who asked–politely–for assistance and guidance.

Meta is not a haven of compassion that was never its role to begin with.

I have accepted it for what it is. Neither one of us can change the nature of the beast. It is what it is.

There are; however, numerous other SE sites which would be more congenial to the OP's gentle spirit and inclination. Sites which are run by equally hardworking contributors and mods, people whose mindsets are more flexible and forgiving than, say, those of Stack Overflow.

First and foremost, Interpersonal Skills, followed closely by English Language for Learners that successfully puts into practice a culture of tolerance, acceptance, kindness and evenhandedness, which should lead as an example. Followed by The Great Outdoors and, I would also recommend Writing. These are far friendlier sites with far less drama that currently resides in MSE. In a comment the OP admitted

Reading not nice stuff here makes my anxiety and depression worse. It hasn't done it yet but it could send me in a panic attack

There's a saying,

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

The Phrase Finder defines the expression as

Don't persist with a task if the pressure of it is too much for you. The implication being that, if you can't cope, you should leave the work to someone who can.

Listen to constructive criticism, try to see the other person's point of view, reflect before posting an outburst, revise your first and second and third draft before pressing that submit button. Be prepared to displease some people but listen to tips and advice from those who have been around longer than you. Stick to your guns, without being pig-headed, if you know you are right and have evidence to support your argument.

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    There are some parts of this answer that I can agree with, but not the suggestion to get out of the kitchen, suggesting instead that the OP spend time on friendlier SE sites. "Meta invites the community to discuss, debate, and propose changes to the way the community itself behaves." Legitimate hate speech has been popping up here. The answer is not to tell people that speech is directed at that they shouldn't participate in the place set aside for discussions on community behavior. In some places this answer reads like telling certain users that they shouldn't participate in the community. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 24 at 20:10
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    @DeNovo if you sustain that an environment is harmful to your health, what do you do? If a friend is stressed out by the comments, the criticisms, and feels that people are screaming at them, what do you advise them? If they continue to post about users who post hateful things about their gender and their community, what would you suggest to a friend? You could encourage them to stay and make their voice heard, and that's noble and courageous but is it worth it if their health suffers? – Mari-Lou A Oct 24 at 20:23
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    @DeNovo Yeah, it’s a tough balance to take. Because for the individual, it is good advice. It is important to take care of our mental health and to disengage instead of escalating. But if it’s applied to a whole group, it just ends up silencing them. I don’t think there is one right answer here – divibisan Oct 24 at 20:25
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    I suggest you add one more tip: Stick around after posting on Meta.SE, to respond promptly to comments, as needed. When one person misunderstands the question, and writes a critical comment, critical comments can quickly become an avalanche, if one does not submit any response. – aparente001 Oct 27 at 23:46
  • Thanks for the encouragement. But I don't think it's enough to post as an answer on its own, although I do think it provides another detail, an additional practical tip, to the final section of your answer. (By the way, I found the point of view of the first 3/4 a bit confusing.) – aparente001 Oct 28 at 0:01
  • @Mari-LouA - Tomorrow is another day. Get some good rest. – aparente001 Oct 28 at 0:10
27

I don't dare to look at comments or answers anymore and, if I see a rude/abusive comment, I'm dreadful to report it in chat because I don't want to be treated like a witch that needs to be burned.

(emphasis mine)

Why would you report it in chat and make yourself a target?

Flagging exists to keep you shielded from retribution if that's what you're afraid of.

People should be able to answer a question and be done with it. They shouldn't have to fear endless criticism and fight and comments war.

I don't agree with this, at all.

We've always been able to challenge and critique ideas and I don't believe that should change. What has certainly changed in this emotionally charged environment is that we no longer assume good faith (and in some instances, I can see why) in the challenges/critique being made. Just because someone levels criticism at a post, doesn't mean they dislike the person that wrote it or are "after" them.

And I, strongly believe that every voice is valuable. That driving away people that are afraid of conflicts, people with low self-esteem, people with anxiety issues, that driving away all those people and even more is a terrible thing.

Realistically, there will be disagreements and conflict - we're on the Internet after all - but it doesn't have to be unpleasant, it can be handled respectfully. I'm not sure how we'd be able to retain people who can't handle respectful disagreements (and I don't say this insensitively).

So, what can we do, as a community, to help make this place a safer one?

Be respectful.


Note that I'm also not talking about what SE Inc. or mods can do. The responsibility of all this isn't and shouldn't be on their own shoulders.

We, as a community, are the ones screaming and making this place unfriendly. We are the ones that are at each other throat. We are the ones that are fighting in comments, about comments, around comments.

Not SE Inc, not the mods, us, the community.

You've been a member for 1 year and 2 months, though the rifts between the company and the community have widened drastically within that period, the issues go back a lot further. It isn't possible to solve this in a vacuum. All parties need to be held responsible for whatever part they've played in this breakdown.

(I touched upon why this will be even harder to achieve now that the "community" has fragmented further into subgroups in this answer of mine)


So, what can we do, as a community, to help make this place friendlier and safer again?

What can we do to make sure that, even if the mods aren't available, even if there are no diamonds around to erase all the bad things that are said, what can we do to make sure (as much as we can) that this place keep being safe and friendly?

In so far as what the "standard" users (i.e. non mod users) can do, we're rather limited to the tools that are at our disposal, so, do your normal flagging and down-voting.

I, personally, wouldn't recommend engaging with an individual who is being belligerent because it might escalate the situation further (as has been my experience previously), but it's your call.

12

The problem is that this question,

What can we do, as a community, to help make MSE a friendlier place again?

is predicated upon a false premise. Meta Stack Exchange (MSE) never really was a friendly place. It's not intended to be a chat room, forum, or blog; it's a place for people to come with suggestions and questions about the Stack Exchange (SE) network. That requires a degree of professional decorum and that's really about it.

It's a very flawed premise to assume that when someone is acting in a professional manner that they are being friendly or that being friendly is even required for them to do so. Kind of like the old trope about how your bartender actually hates you, are acting friendly because their job is predicated upon emotional labor. MSE is built upon the same structure of professional relationships: while people shouldn't walk around being intentionally belligerent, things are quite structured and transactional. You ask a question to the group at large, and they provide zero or more answers back, perhaps with some comments to clarify. I suspect the overwhelming majority of users are comfortable with this approach, which is why they might be out of the loop when it comes to social issues. Effectively, there's a lot of things that don't really come up at most workplaces and a lot of the SE sites are seen as extension of the workplace.

enter image description here

Effectively, this means that one of the ways to make MSE a "friendlier" place again is for people to lower their expectations. This doesn't mean that people are allowed to be jerks - jerks get fired in the workplace! - but it does mean that I have no real expectation for my colleagues to ask me about my personal life or anything. It's a system that works because we all have the same vision as to why we are somewhere. I might find some comments to be quite blunt at times, but it's also not really personal. Likewise, in the workplace if I need to tell a subordinate to go back and do something again, it's not personal, the work just needs to be brought up to standards.

Note that I'm not really addressing chat here. Chat is a completely different situation all together and one that I personally avoid.

10

When used for open-ended discussion, SE comment threads have an marked tendency to degenerate into shouting matches, in no small measure due to limitations of the comment format itself. To have better odds against that, it is a good idea to take some care when commenting so that the opportunities for escalation are minimised. Some things that are helpful:

  • Consider not posting a comment if the point it would raise was already made in the discussion. That is specially important if the point has just been raised by several people replying directly to a specific person.

  • Steer clear from personal attacks, and avoid superfluous charged language. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to get carried away and make an otherwise constructive point in an inflammatory way.

  • Be wary of engaging in unproductive discussions, and disengage as soon as you feel the discussion won't lead anywhere.

9

What I see here is lots of people talking past each other, looking for ways to attack "the other side", and generally assuming bad faith in what "the other side" is saying. This will never lead to a solution. Best case, it leads to people leaving until "one side" is all that's left.

The solution starts with everyone. Everyone should:

LISTEN

Read what other people say with an open mind. Read with the view that these are other human beings with opinions and feelings. Read with the idea not of responding but with the idea of understanding what they are saying.

PAUSE AND THINK

Don't immediately respond. Let things percolate. Consider. Don't just look at ways to find the perfect debate response. Try to read through the lens of disinterest to see what the other person is actually saying, and actually means from their perspective.

PAUSE SOME MORE

If your blood is up, stop. Go get some coffee, play some video games, watch some TV, read a book. If you post with emotion, you are contributing to the problem, not the solution.

RESPOND WITH FAIRNESS

Look for responses that open up lines of communication. Spend as many words on points of agreement as points of disagreement. Look for ways to compliment the other party. Admit mistakes. (We all make mistakes, every one of us.)

The mantra of good will and inclusiveness is this: "I screwed up, we succeeded". Compliment others, approach yourself with self-deprecation, admit mistakes, look for compromise, not victory.

THIS MEANS YOU

Above all, don't assume this advice is for someone else, whether you are an individual user, a moderator or an SE employee. We're all human beings, and being in a position of power makes you no less susceptible to emotion. It only makes your emotionally driven actions more damaging.

7

Additional to the core Be Nice I would suggest some restraint.
Duplode's answer already touches on this.

  • If someone comments on an answer, then a 3rd person comments on the first commenter, do you think commenting on person number 3 still adds useful stuff?
    This is different from If a situation makes it hard to be friendly, stop participating and move on. It is asking yourself if your opinion is really so important that you have to write it down.3
    In the current atmosphere, I suggest the answer is remarkably often No - it is better to let the thread die down.
    And as Mary-Lou nicely phrases in the last paragraph of her answer: "Listen to constructive criticism, try to see the other person's point of view, reflect before posting an outburst, revise your first and second and third draft before pressing that submit button"
    You don't have to react.

  • Are you assuming? If you count the number of assumptions in posts over last few weeks, it is enormous1.
    People assume X and then write their opinions about X.
    This is basic human behavior, we do this all the time2. But knowing that, is it really worth posting your assumptions? At the least, say that/what you're assuming.

1 I'm not going to point to examples, thus naming names, and maybe make people going to defend themselves ("I did not!") That is exactly the kind of noise we need less of. I'm inviting everyone to see this as an exercise for the reader.
2 Reading material 1, 2, 3 etc.
3 Don't forget those I agree comments with an additional argument/opinion.

Talking about "exercises for the reader":
I challenge you to think twice before commenting ;-)

  • I was going to start my answer with a header saying "Exercise restraint when using comments", but it looked a bit weird on the post preview, so I left it off at the last minute :) (And, as you say, this applies well beyond comments.) – duplode Oct 24 at 21:24
6

@Glorfindel has a good answer regarding the old "Be Nice" policy, which IMO is everything the community can do.

The Problem

... is that the community's trust in SE has been damaged. The new FAQ, though IMO far from perfect, is a massive improvement over the old one - mostly because compelled speech got booted out.

Another problem that harmed the trust is how they de-modded Monica, and their subsequent awful handling of the community response. I'm not entirely sure how they would have to go around fixing this, but a public apology specifically to Monica in person, along with public revocation of unsubstantiated accusations, would go a long way.

So... what can we, the community, do?

Not much. We can assume good intent from SE, but that's not something that's going to rebuild trust. In my opinion, what we should do is keep calm, explain our trust issues in a calm manner, try to stay constructive, and keep calm.

The only way forward, whether we like it or not, is SE and the community together.

6

I honestly feel that the only way to resolve this drama and to make meta nicer is for everyone to slow down and show some empathy. If people are able to understand where the other side is coming from and accept those fears then I feel we could finally push past all of the political bull**** and come to a mutual understanding. Anyways, that’s just my thoughts.

  • 1
    I love this answer. I love it, because this is what we all need online and offline. – aidaoftheheart Oct 24 at 18:19
5

When people have differences they can negotiate or they can fight. If fighting breaks out there are two options: one side surrenders or they decide to negotiate.

Why does one side surrender? Because the fighting and/or the consequences harm them. In order to drive one side to surrender the other side must be willing to inflict some sort of harm. What's more, the vast majority of people suffer harm when they harm someone else.

That's pretty messed up, and it's why people choose negotiation and compromise instead. Negotiation means that people understand each other and figure out a way for everyone to get something they want. That is usually impossible unless everyone is willing to give up something they want.

How do we make MSE a friendlier place? Negotiate. Yield. Compromise. There is no other way. Winning a conflict is pointless for anyone who cannot do that. They will only attempt to solve future disagreements with conflict. They will never be happy - not when they lose, and not even when they win.

That's the answer: Negotiate, compromise, yield.

  • 2
    You're missing a third option for when fighting breaks out, one side is defeated (not the same as surrenders which implies giving up). – Script47 Oct 24 at 12:00
  • 4
    If folks don't like negotiating and compromising, well, enjoy your fight. – Scott Hannen Oct 24 at 12:24
  • 3
    This is exactly correct. I find it strange that on this of all sites, with nearly every belief system and nationality present, people still think that their beliefs are right and true and thus other beliefs must false and suppressed. SO Inc. leads the charge with absolutely no negotiation at all over the CoC. – James Reinstate Monica Polk Oct 24 at 14:35
  • Well said, and put it to the point. I'm afraid that there is at least one side that thinks that they can win, and there are third parties rushing in making the situation worse. – jknappen - Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 15:58
2

Flag comments for deletion

I don't dare to look at comments or answers anymore and, if I see a rude/abusive comment, I'm dreadful to report it in chat because I don't want to be shout out for it.

Then IMO you are not using the tools at hand that can help with this.

People should be able to ask a question on MSE without fearing to be schooled for it. They should be able to suggest new, unusual, ideas to be screamed at because people disagree with the premise of their question.

People should be able to answer a question and be done with it. They shouldn't have to fear endless criticism and fight and comments war.

There's a tool here that can help. Flagging comments.

Once you have answered a question, and taken into account any comments that are constructive (i.e. they help you improve the answer) you flag all comments under your answer for deletion.

And then: move on and don't look back. Don't let the venom spitters get you down.

This isn't a forum; take the approach that you will not treat it as one. (That took me a while to grok as I encountered SE-ness a few years back)

This takes effort. Often, things worth doing take effort.

There is no easy button.

Because, if people are afraid to ask good faith questions, if they are afraid to suggest anything, if they are afraid to answer questions, then they will stop doing it.

I think that Jeff Atwood might suggest that this is the stack working as designed, but I guess we've moved out of the Atwood era.

I believe that you need to ask that as a separate question, because Questions and Answers have different values on Stacks, in general. So I'll recommend something to you:

  • Make this a question in two parts, because I think it's too broad.

  • Question 1 has to do with your concern about getting flamed for answers.

  • QUestion 2 has to do with being attacked for simply asking a question.

  • These seem to me to be two related but separate problems.

Thanks for raising this issue.

  • "Then IMO you are not using the tools at hand that can help with this." -> So, are you saying that I should keep reading the comments even if it makes me highly distressed and bad? Because, if it's not what you mean, you should probably clarify. – BelovedFool Oct 25 at 5:41
  • @BelovedFool The problem with comments, besides there being too many of them far too often, is that until you scan or read one, you wont know if it's a constructive comment (like the one you just posted) or something that is noise, or worse something that is mean spirited. You can probably pick up the tone before the end of the first sentence to get an idea of whether to flag it or see if it can help with your answer. Does that help? (And do you feel that this elaboration would improve this answer?) – KorvinStarmast Oct 25 at 10:47
-18

I am going to self answer this because I have ideas. Most of them are silly, undoable, controversial or just bad. But I believe that bads ideas can lead to great ones. That's why I'm going to post all those silly, stupid, controversial ideas over here. Because I'm hoping they could lead to better ones. To great ones.

  1. Having a better way to monitor comments. I know some sites already have that. And I know it works mostly great. So, I believe having a bot, in a special room, who would post every comment ever posted on MSE could/would be a good idea.

    This way, you don't have to pick and select what thread of comments to monitor. You can just monitor all of them at once. Plus, with the help of a few regexes, you might even be able to be warned about unfriendly comments and catch them sooner.

  2. I think everyone should be allowed to disengage. And I think we, as a community, should help them do just that. So, if someone is specifically asking to not be talked to anymore then 1) we should respect their wish and 2) we could/should flag every comments that don't respect this wish as "No Longer Needed".

  3. If a conversation is really heated and going nowhere. I think we, as a community, should step in and (kindly) ask people to disengage (or, at the very least, talk somewhere else so people won't have to see all those "not nice" things).


Some suggestions that do rely on mods and SE Inc, but less heavily:

  • Pressure SE Inc to develop tools that will help people disengage if they wish to do just so (see here for more).

  • If you are running out of flags, using one custom mod flag to delete a whole thread might be a better idea than flagging every comment individually.

  • 1
    Is 2 one your genuine suggestions or one of your 'silly, undoable, controversial or just bad' ideas? As for 3, depends on what you mean by "not nice" things but surely they should just be deleted? – Script47 Oct 24 at 7:56
  • @Script47 They do tend to get deleted eventualy but sometimes they are just borderline and it's hard to know if an how you should flag. So, asking people to stop arguing altogheter mihht/will prevent escalation and we won't have to see the actualy ugly stuff since it will never be posted – BelovedFool Oct 24 at 8:19
  • @Script47 I do believe that disengaging should be made easier. I also know people disagree with how we should do that. So it's probably undouable because people won't agree with that. But I'm still hopefull we could find a way to nicely dissengage. – BelovedFool Oct 24 at 8:23
  • 1
    I would change 'But I'm still hopefull we could find a way to nicely dissengage.' to 'But I'm still hopefull we could find a way to respectfully disengage.'. – Script47 Oct 24 at 8:26
  • 1
    This garnered a lot of downvotes for mentioning constructive, though perhaps not specific, changes that could be further developed. Have an upvote then, if anything, for being optimistic and constructive still. – Reinstate Monica Oct 24 at 9:32
  • 1
    You can help evaluate comments by using The Stack Overflow Comment Evaluator 5000. – Christine H. Richards Oct 24 at 15:48
-22

The simplest and fastest way is to stop complaining about pronouns you don't like and get back to answering questions. The only way to restore trust to is rebuild it, which means using the site normally.

Rather than worrying about hypothetical CoC violations or making vague but very concerned sounding posts like this one, just use the main site and be patient.

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