-18

Say somebody gets annoyed and writes, "Don't ping me again." (In a discussion below a post.) I'll try to reconstruct the approximate situation (this part of the comment discussion was removed).

A: @C You did x (something bad).
B: @A: What was the bad thing User C supposedly did?
A: @B: User C knows perfectly well what it was. Reread so-and-so's post and don't ping me again.
B: @A: (Some time later) I reread the post yesterday and today and I still don't understand. Also, C has clearly stated that they don't know what they supposedly did wrong either.
A: @B: I already told you not to ping me.

At that point, silence ensued. Fine. But let's back up a step. Is there accepted etiquette for a situation like this?

I can't check the time stamps to see how much time went by. If your answer is different, depending on how much time went by before B said "I reread etc.", please lay out the various cases in your answer.

Bonus question: if A and C are having an argument below a post (not in Chat), is there a rule against B saying anything? (Obviously it would not be cool for B and C to gang up on someone. That didn't happen in this case.)

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    Is person A a mod, a staff member, a high privilege user or a regular user? – Bitter dreggs. Nov 2 '19 at 3:19
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    Hi, please state who are mod, its unclear. I erased my answer as for me B was a mod, but A could be too in your story – yagmoth555 Nov 2 '19 at 3:25
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    @WeareMonica. - I don't understand why that matters. – aparente001 Nov 2 '19 at 4:12
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    @aparente001: because moderators are expected to help other users of the site, not to send them away without a decent explanation - otherwise they should rethink their moderator's role. This should be even more valid for staff members. – Doc Brown Nov 2 '19 at 9:03
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    Isn't this a very very specific case ? Why is this different from anything in real life ? I doubt that you're seeking help for real life situations. If so, meta is not the proper site. – ankii Nov 2 '19 at 13:40
  • @ankii - I would like to learn what is expected in SE Meta. Although I am not able to quote the exact exchange (due to a big chunk of comments having been deleted), the dialogue I wrote approximates a conversation that took place. – aparente001 Nov 2 '19 at 14:28
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    The context you omit makes it look like A went around badmouthing C, when in fact A was talking to C (i. e. C was present and knew what was being written). So B was not coming to C's rescue as your version suggests, but was just interfering in two people's conversation. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Nov 2 '19 at 15:54
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    @AnneDauntedGoFundMonica - Your insight is always a wondrous thing to behold. – anongoodnurse Nov 2 '19 at 16:08
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    @aparente001 - To be a bit more accurate, the first line should be: "A to user C: User C, you did x (something bad.)" The second, "B to user A: What did C supposedly do that was bad?" And it wasn't the next day tat you pinged me, it was that same hour. Don't get me wrong, There are other misrepresentations in the facts and the tone of the "conversation". – anongoodnurse Nov 2 '19 at 19:50
  • @anongoodnurse - I don't remember how much time went by, but I'm fine with editing the dialogue to simply say that the next ping occurred later. – aparente001 Nov 3 '19 at 6:30
28

Since this is about me, I will answer.

Is there a ping etiquette?

Not that I know of.

Ping etiquette should follow what would be socially acceptable in real life situations. If you would jump into a conversation in real life, you should feel free to do so in comments. I believe comments are fair game.

Bonus question: if A and C are having an argument below a post (not in Chat), is there a rule against B saying anything?

No. I haven't seen any rules about pinging itself. But on the site, there's an overarching rule to be nice. And again, what you would do in person in the real world should apply.

As a moderator on another site, I often have to jump in and remind someone to be nice. Or jump in and ask for proof. Or jump in for other reasons. But that is in my capacity as a mod. As a user and reader of comment threads, I do jump in to disagree when it seems appropriate, sometimes even when it doesn't, but I usually regret those and delete the comment (with an apology, but that's me. And I'm no saint.)

In the real world, we don't get upvotes for our comments. I've seen comments that were incredibly unkind get lots of upvotes. The point is, what would certainly not fly in the real world flies here pretty often. But it's not nice.

In summary, comment threads are fair game for anyone reading them. We live in community here as in real life. But our behavior online is often far from what we would do in real life, so let that guide you to some extent. And remember to be nice.

If there is nothing in your pings which isn't polite, then the social behavior applies.


Now about this exchange specifically.

Please allow me to point out that the conversation did not go quite as written. To the best of my ability to recall (which isn't so wonderful any more, but if it is very important, I can ask a mod to release those comments to me):

  • I was commenting to the author under a post written by them, disagreeing with one point. It was very polite. I was not in any way badmouthing anyone. (And there were maybe 6-7 pings, not the "one-and-shove-off" recounted.) The conversation was more or less finished when the first ping from B appeared.
  • B questioned me about the veracity of what I was saying.
  • I answered B that I had seen it myself.
  • B replied that they did not believe me, and that the person whose post I was commenting on was unaware of doing what I said. (B was speaking for someone else in their presence.)
  • I said, "They are aware", and to read x post which supported what I said.
  • B asked for evidence. B stating something to that effect that the whole community deserved evidence.
  • I stated I could not give B evidence, because the source was not available.
  • B repeated themselves, stating their opinion that the writer of the post was not aware of such and such, and that B and everyone else wanted evidence.
  • I answered B again, stated that I saw the comment the first time, referred B again to x and having answered, I said, "Please" don't ping me again.
  • B pinged me again saying I could not possibly be correct.
  • I answered B again in different words, and repeated, "Please" don't ping me again".
  • B pinged me again stating their opinion.
  • I answered, "You (B) believe one thing, I the opposite, but only one of us is right", and asked B not to ping me again (please).
  • B asked the poster to reply to my assertions.
  • The poster ignored the comment.
  • B then pinged me again with an observation and question.
  • I didn't answer; I just asked B not to ping me again.
  • B continued the comment thread without me.

N.B.: Every time I asked B, I asked B politely, "Please don't ping me again."


Someone in a thread only has a few options when they are pinged. They can answer, they can ignore, they can announce that they are disengaging, they can ask that you not ping them again.

Most people just start to ignore someone in a thread who is insistent on getting an answer. There is a reason I specifically asked B not to ping me. I know that B has difficulty letting go. So I was signaling B that it was best to let go. I don't like to just ignore people when I believe them to be sincere. When they are being rude or insincere, I have no problem ignoring them by simply disengaging with them.


So is there a ping etiquette? I don't think so; I've never seen one. I haven't seen it from anyone else, and I myself have rarely asked anyone to stop pinging me. But I believe B was sincere, and that I should not simply pretend B didn't exist.

You're asking, in effect, if B was wrong in any way. I'd say B was... not being nice. I repeatedly asked B politely to stop pinging me, but they did not. There's no absolute right or wrong, and no rules. More like a "Treat others as you would be treated situation". Since B and I have different expectations, there's no black and white answer.

If you want opinions on the rightness or wrongness of the situation you presented, in meta the usual is to look at how the votes go.

I can produce evidence for my side, so please represent things accurately when you ask for support in meta. An honest answer will help people more than one answering a question framed specifically to be sympathetic to your bias.

  • +1 from me, despite the answer being curtailed. – Mari-Lou A Nov 3 '19 at 16:40
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    @Mari-LouA - Thanks. I actually like this answer better. Like many things I say, it';s better for having forced me to be more careful. :) – anongoodnurse Nov 3 '19 at 16:49
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    I saw the conversation back then myself and this is an accurate reconstruction of it. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Nov 21 '19 at 18:05
10

This whole do not ping me affair is new to me, to be honest. However, I have recently seen a few occurrences of this matter, (roughly) declined in two categories:

  • The user does not wish to be pinged because the flashing UI causes them discomfort or otherwise breaks their concentration. In that situation, recommendations were made to employ user scripts in order to alleviate the problem.

  • The user does not want to be replied to, and may mention noisy pings as the reason behind that. However, when you dig a little, it becomes apparent replies are the problem, not pings. This has led to an old question about ignoring users (à la Twitter) being resurrected. (I am personally not comfortable with this, but YMMV.)

The attitude I would suggest in the face of both cases is to do as follows:

  • If your reply does not bring anything more to the table or is not significant in itself, do not post it. It's not worth the trouble.

  • If you believe your reply is important and has to be posted, do that without pinging the user (do not refer to them by name, and if you have to, do not use an @-sign). If you do that, then only the author of the post will be pinged, and if the author does not want to be replied to... well, let's say they have a bigger problem.

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    Uh. I'm obviously a bit old-fashioned here. When I don't want to be pinged, I shut down my darn computer. When entering a conversation (and even more so: When accusing others of wrongdoing, or bringing up a controversial point), the willingness to reply to sincere, honest responses is the least amount of courtesy that I would expect. Sure, one can overlook a ping or disengage for other reasons - that's OK - but when this happens regularly, I'd sooner or later simply no longer take this person serious (Not in the meaning of "considering that person to be a troll", but similar) – Marco13 Nov 2 '19 at 11:46
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    @Marco, yup, or just close the offending tab(s) so you can still use the effing computer to, say, calculate your taxes or something. But I agree that pushes us away from the actual problem, i.e. users who want to post their opinions without being challenged on them in replies. From where I stand they appear to crave interaction, provided that the inter does not disagree with their action. This is a complicated problem that I still do not understand properly (but I've been reading about this, so maybe I will in the future). – Frédéric Hamidi Nov 2 '19 at 12:05
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    @Marco13 - Please see my response. My motives can be judged there, and if I was offensive, please comment there. – anongoodnurse Nov 2 '19 at 16:06
  • @Marco13 the SE apps are (well, actually were) the only apps on my phone which don't let me mute a post or an user. Are you suggesting I turn off my darn phone, because SE are too darn incompetent to implement the most basic of notification controls? (I said were previously, because I no longer have either SE app installed now precisely because of their incompetence.) – muru Nov 2 '19 at 17:32
  • @muru I'm obviously very old-fashioned here: I've never used SE on a phone. But beyond that, I cannot say anything "constructive" right now. – Marco13 Nov 2 '19 at 17:42
10

Having handled ... a lot of flags and comments over the past few days, I suspect that its a disconnect with how folks see comments to be used.

Comments are, especially now, used as ersatz discussion boards by some folks, and they get a bit attached and grouchy about them being deleted.

Comments are also by design transient artifacts supposed to be used once and thrown away, like a q tip or a hand grenade (and for $deity's sake don't get the two confused). They're meant for quick clarifications or to add a stub of a semi answer that dosen't quite stand on its own but makes the existing answer better.

So - the problem is when folks have a disconnect between them. Not everyone wants to get into a conversation in the comments - yet the end effect is they get dragged into it when pinged.

Right now, especially, not everyone has the mental bandwidth, or spoons to deal with everything. We're dealing with hard, emotive topics pretty much non stop for the past month. Some folks have an easier time handling it than others and we all deal with it differently.

So clearly the person in question wanted to disengage. Its worth backing off in general in these situations when they have made it clear that they don't really want to continue the dialog.

7

[Note: This is an answer to the generic question as stated. It does not apply to the concrete situation which has been described in detail in another answer.]

This particular case is easy:

A: [...] Do X and don't do Y again.
[...]
A: I already told you not to do Y.

Asking people to do something is fine, commanding them to do something is unfriendly. The current Code of Conduct explicitly lists "unfriendly language" as "unacceptable behavior".

Thus, flag the comment(s) with the "It's unfriendly or unkind" option and disengage.

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    Where do you distinguish command and request? If I am annoyed, that is the most polite way I can ask them to stop. – ankii Nov 2 '19 at 13:39
  • This only works if B's ideology aligns with SE's and A's does not. And yes, how offensive/rude/unfreiendly something is, is determined 100% based on that, and not on the situation/content – DVK Nov 2 '19 at 15:07
  • @ankii: Sure, there are a lot of edge cases, but "I already told you not to do Y" is a pretty clear case in my opinion. That's not how you phrase a polite request, and it also makes it clear that the first one wasn't either (note the use of "told" instead of "asked"). – Heinzi Nov 2 '19 at 16:03
  • @DVK: Well, the "...and disengage" part of my answer is meant to ensure that the (immediate) problem is solved either way. How the flag is handled is a matter between A and SE and does not need to concern the OP. – Heinzi Nov 2 '19 at 18:36
  • As a computer scientist (aka nerd), I have to ask: Is commanding someone to be friendly friendly or unfriendly then? (This is not meant to be ironical. It's a crucial matter of definitions and limits at this point) – Marco13 Nov 2 '19 at 20:16
  • @Marco13: Well, context matters, obviously, and the range [unfriendly...friendly] is continuous, not discrete. That having been said, I don't think that X = "be friendly" is a special case that needs to be treated differently. (And I hope that was nerdy enough. ;-)) – Heinzi Nov 2 '19 at 21:27
  • B transgressed a personal boundary that A declared to them. By my standard, that should also be flag-worthy. In that case, I wind back to "A: User C knows perfectly well what it was. Reread so-and-so's post and don't ping me again." I read it within the same error margin as the friendlier, real comment we found. I guess we look at it with different biases... you would say I am too quick to guess the hypothetical context is angrifying in similar ways to the recent firestorm; that user A is having a bad enough day here and they deserve me mentally inserting the word "please". – sourcejedi Nov 2 '19 at 21:32
  • Flagging "commands" like this isn't a terrible idea. But compared to other sites, I think it's a bit harder to ignore how SE handles the individual flag because of how it gamifies flagging. I don't care that much what the penalties or bonuses are, but the feedback makes me want to learn the rules of the SE flagging game and help moderate the sites :-). – sourcejedi Nov 2 '19 at 21:58
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    @sourcejedi: I agree that adding "please" or using the unambiguous phrasing you suggested in your answer ("I don't want to discuss it with you any further") would make a huge difference here (and invalidate the flagging suggested in my answer, leaving only the recommendation to disengage). You make a good point about B being rude by not respecting A's wish, but in the hypothetical situation described in the question, it was an honest mistake as B just misinterpreted the boundary stated by A. (The situation that really happened is another matter, obviously.) – Heinzi Nov 2 '19 at 22:01
  • @sourcejedi: What do you mean by "gamification of flagging"? So far, I was under the impression that a flag just means "something might be wrong with this post, put it in a queue so that moderators can have a look at it". Did that change? – Heinzi Nov 2 '19 at 22:09
  • Not sure whether this was what sourcejedi referred to, but at least one form of flag gamification are the "moderation badges" like stackoverflow.com/help/badges/8/citizen-patrol (Bronze/Silver/Gold for 1/80/500 "helpful" flags). When someone is (significantly) influenced by that (I mean, beyond the incentive of trying to keep the site clean in general), then there might be a deeper problem, though... – Marco13 Nov 2 '19 at 22:13
  • Currently, you have cast one helpful flag on MSE. When you click on your own profile, you see which flags are marked "helpful", "declined" - or pending, and sometimes you get a mod response, I think if you gave a custom flag reason. The "bonus" is that if you flag a lot (successfully), your maximum number of flags per day goes up. The "penalty" is that if you waste too much time by flagging things that don't need it, you're automatically blocked from flagging for a while, or something like that. – sourcejedi Nov 2 '19 at 22:14
  • In my mind, gamifying doesn't specifically mean badges, it includes quantitive feedback features that can help you improve, or learn what the site expects. – sourcejedi Nov 2 '19 at 22:19
4

I think your phrasing could equally be rephrased. (Ignoring tone).

  1. Alice: Chris did something bad.
  2. Bob: @Alice: What was the bad thing Chris supposedly did?
  3. Alice: @Bob: It's shown here: [link to stackexchange question or answer]. I don't want to discuss it with you any further.
  4. Bob: @Alice: (Next day) I reread the post yesterday and today and I still don't understand. Also, Chris has clearly stated that they don't know what they supposedly did wrong either.
  5. Alice: @Bob: I already told you, I don't want to discuss it.

Trying to continue the discussion with Alice against her wishes (line #4) is not respectful. That's the principle.

Notice this is not tied to specific details of technology.

That said, this type of technology makes it very easy for you to check back and see exactly what Alice said.

If the post author is still open to discussion - there's a path forward for you! It's possible they're not open to discussion either. In that case, you have the option of downvoting (particularly on Meta). Then you have the option of responding e.g. "I've read the post, but I still don't understand what Chris is supposed to have done wrong", without pinging Alice. That said, you should think about whether it is useful to do so or not. (Credit for this last part belongs to Frédéric Hamidi's answer :-).


I strongly disagree with user642519's conclusion. That said, I don't dismiss their points out of hand. Comment #1 would need to be very on-topic, and we don't want multiple people just repeating the same assertion in a single thread (we have upvotes for that), etc.

But it shouldn't be common for this to even be on-topic. As I guessed, we now see "Chris" was one of a small number of people, who were directly involved in the recent firestorm. We would try to avoid discussing individual users publicly. Except that the authorities who resolve "something bad" have just shown very poor judgement.

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    This answer is fine, but the question was phrased incorrectly (see my comment under the OP's post.) It should be, 1. Alice to Chris: You did (x) (something bad. I clearly stated to Chris what I believed Chris did.) 2. Bob: How can you accuse Cris of doing x? etc. – anongoodnurse Nov 2 '19 at 19:03
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    @anongoodnurse I believe the more detailed account in your answer. I think you are too generous - my answer is twice as long as it should be to make a simple point :-). But I really like collecting simple rules. The ones I could use even if I feel very upset or confused. And perhaps, even if I fail to recognize what I have been doing :-). – sourcejedi Nov 2 '19 at 20:10
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    "I really like collecting simple rules though. The ones I can use even if I feel very upset or confused. And perhaps, even if I fail to recognize what I have been doing " I like that! This answer, then, has even more value than I accounted for. :) (Good rules for living are good rules to remind ourselves with.) – anongoodnurse Nov 2 '19 at 20:13
3

Is there accepted etiquette for a situation like this?

I haven't heard of any and I don't think we need such thing. It's a public place and anyone can ping you at any time. Reqesting ppl to stop pinging you is pointless and could be avoided only be not participating at all.

I can imagine SE allowing authors to disable comments for their own posts (similar to youtube) but I don't think this would actually benefit anyone. The poster wouln't be able to receive feedback or ppl would ping him under other posts where commenting hasn't been disabled.

My unprofessional advice is to just ignore users pinging you. You don't even have to click on that red button - they don't check this - or just use an ad-blocker and setup a custom filter to hide it completely so that it doesn't bother you.

This might equally happen when other users discuss some pressing matters under one of your postings without even mentioning you. Do you also consider it as pinging?

Looks like we've solved another issue that didn't require solving.

1

Take a mental note that this person does not want to be pinged, period. Your etiquette was fine, as you didn't ping them for the rest of the day. It's not obvious that they meant "don't ever ping me", since most of the time, what is meant is "you're annoying me right now and I want some silence".

If you want to specify that you are talking to them without explicitly pinging them, you can state their name without using the @ symbol. For example, consider the following response:

A: @B: I already told you not to ping me.
B: I'm sorry, A. I assumed it would be OK a day later. I'll refrain from pinging you.

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    Problem is: I've run out of mental notes ... – rene Nov 2 '19 at 7:28
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    I think 3M makes mental post-it notes @rene – Bart Nov 2 '19 at 17:16
0

No one has the right to accuse someone and then demand not to be asked to clarify the matter. In fact, whoever accuses someone should be required to provide proof.

It is a common strategy in politics as well as private conflicts to accuse an opponent of a misdeed they did not commit. The accusation, even if unfounded and later refuted, sows doubt in the minds of the concerned public about the accused person and, if disproof is difficult to produce or ambivalent or complex and difficult to understand, will forever taint that person's reputation.

You may use the events surrounding the demotion of Monica Cellio as an example, where Stack Exchange, Inc., have publicly accused Monica of something they refuse to provide poof of. Having made that (public) accusation, SE have given up the right to demand not to be asked for clarification. The case here is similar, in that someone has publicly accused someone of something. Given that accusation, they don't have the right to demand to be left alone about it.

If a person has answered all concerns to the best of their ability and asks you to leave them alone, respect their wishes. But if a person voices a concern that is unclear, you may ignore their demands to be left alone and demand clarification of them.

The latter is even more true if the accusation has been made in public as in the present case – and it doesn't matter if "public" means the general public or a limited public of only one person.

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