I'm more of a reader than a contributor on SO, but I try to jump in sometimes when I can. I tried to triage a post today and it turned out to be an audit. I suggested a moderator review because it had a question, but no code and seemed like it might be better for the Unix site. I failed the audit.

The fail message got me thinking, though:

STOP! Look and Listen.
This was an audit, designed to see if you were paying attention. You didn't pass.

Is the tone of this audit response in-line with our new community guidelines? Would responses like this discourage people from participating in review queues?

Here's the audit question

Here's a possible alternative:

Review Audit - Please read carefully!

This was an audit designed to help you accurately review posts. Unfortunately, in this case, your review action was incorrect. This post is considered a high-quality post and should be either left as-is or even upvoted.

Please visit the Help Center for information on "How do I ask a good question?" for more information regarding the characteristics of a high-quality post.

(Add link to the 'How do I ask a good question?' page or similar)

  • Can you include the link of your audit?
    – CaldeiraG
    Jan 22, 2020 at 16:31
  • 9
    People don't like the message or audits in general. The message they are attempting to convey is that incorrect reviews are a problem, so it's strongly worded. But, that's my opinion. It's supposed to be a whack on the knuckles.
    – Rob
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:20
  • This is quite ambiguous since the wording is very simple. However, this question is actually useful and not localized in nature Jan 22, 2020 at 17:32
  • Ah, I didn't realize that. Sorry about that. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:49
  • 3
    While it's a question about the message for failing a "Triage Audit" there is more than one site which has audits and such messages. This doesn't seem like a request that only Triage reviewers receive a kinder message. (I favor leave open).
    – Rob
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Rob, yes I was thinking of the broader impact. Triage is where I saw it, but I assumed Late Answers and First Posts across exchanges would have a similar feature. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:53
  • @Doug Any proposal how you believe such message could be formulated more friendly or welcoming? Jan 22, 2020 at 18:24
  • Yes! I'm a decent wordsmith. I'm more than happy to take a crack at it. Should I post it as an answer or an edit to my question? An edit seems reasonable to me. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:29
  • 3
    I feel "you didn't pass" to be more friendly than the alternative, "you failed". Jan 22, 2020 at 18:45
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog, I agree, but I think the whole message could be improved. Is it really about passing or failing? Or, could we use the output to improve the reviewers skill? Jan 22, 2020 at 18:50
  • As a point of interest the Triage does appear on SO, and not on anime.stackexchange.com/review or math.stackexchange.com/review as has been suggested. That doesn't affect the applicability of the question.
    – Rob
    Jan 22, 2020 at 18:50
  • 2
    It's worth pointing out that the primary reason behind review audits is not to catch people doing the "wrong" thing, but to catch robo-reviewers who are blindly passing everything through without paying any attention whatsoever to the review tasks. Review audits are intended to be super easy for any legitimate reviewer to pass (which is why, e.g. spam is used as known-bad audits in certain queues). Jan 22, 2020 at 21:00
  • 1
    So - I deleted my answer because it wasn't really that relevant after your edit to include an example. Following this edit, I think there's a case to be made that the audit text could be improved to enhance its clarity and helpfulness. Which is different than arguing about whether or not the original was rude. So your question could probably stand a further edit, since it doesn't actually seem to have much to do with how friendly or not reviews/audits should be.
    – HFBrowning
    Jan 22, 2020 at 21:26

3 Answers 3


The message

STOP! Look and Listen.

This was an audit, designed to see if you were paying attention. You didn't pass.

does not tell me why I didn't pass. It does not tell me how to improve. It does not even tell me that I should improve.

It just tells me to STOP!. So I will just stop doing reviews when I receive this message.

Luckily, I have not received this message yet.

I agree with OP's suggestion and with some comments on the questions and answers. Reviewing is a completely voluntary task, more monotonous (and less incentivized) than writing questions or answers. But reviewing is also a very important task, so the system should at least not plainly tell the new volunteers that make mistakes that they should just "STOP!".

That does not seem to fit well with a community that seems to still want to "assume good intent".

  • A problem with that is that the system have very few ways to know why you did not review correctly. We sadly still do not have sentient computers, and must rely on the community to explain in the meantime. Jan 22, 2020 at 22:04
  • @FélixGagnon-Grenier, I don't think sentience is required. Since it is a "rigged" review, we know what the correct answer is. If the user picks the wrong action, whatever action it is, the response should be able to justify why the "correct" action is correct. Jan 23, 2020 at 3:29

The intention of that message is to get your attention and to get you to slow down when reviewing. It seems like it accomplished both objectives, so I'm not finding an issue with the tone.

  • 2
    Tone is completely orthogonal to the objective of the message. I can get someone to stop what they're doing by screaming at them, but that's still probably not the best approach. Jan 22, 2020 at 21:45
  • 3
    People will find the tone is not to their liking literally forever if the message is not to their liking @Chris. "You did not correctly review" will forever be perceived as not the right tone, whatever explanation follows. Jan 22, 2020 at 22:18

It depends on how you consider triage and reviews in general. If you believe them to be some kind of social activity, where we want people to chill out and relax, then yes, possibly this could be worded differently.

If you consider them as mission-critical quality tools that maintain the sites where they are and allow Stack Exchange's reputation of high-quality to stay true then no, this wording should absolutely not be made less incisive.

I am of the second opinion. It's not "just" missing an audit, this is actually directly and actively harming the sites when people review poorly. Making this "friendly" will simply make the overall quality of reviews lower.

  • 6
    The mission-critical tool is open to volunteer users that aren't moderators or Stack employees. Surely there is a middle ground where the importance of triage can be conveyed without accusing the user of not paying attention. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:43
  • @DougDawson But they really were not paying attention. It's not an accusation, or at least not a baseless one. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:43
  • 1
    Well, in this case, the user was me and I was paying attention. I don't have the experience that other users have and I didn't triage the question the way others have intended. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:45
  • Which is also an important thing to notice and make you stop to think about. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:45
  • 8
    If it's a mission-critical quality tool then they can pay someone to do it. The least you can do for volunteers is be polite to them. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:53
  • @BobsaysreinstateMonica You are implying that the current wording is impolite? Jan 22, 2020 at 17:54
  • 3
    @Doug FWIW, I once suggested on MSO that we could have practice queues where people could safely learn how to do reviews, but the idea wasn't very popular. See meta.stackoverflow.com/q/289871/4014959
    – PM 2Ring
    Jan 22, 2020 at 17:55
  • 6
    @Felix it's pretty effing rude if you ask me. It's an example of a user interaction where the system could be thanking users for participating but instead is trying to make them feel small for making a mistake. Jan 22, 2020 at 17:59
  • 1
    @FélixGagnon-Grenier, I asked the question here because I perceived the audit response to be impolite. Sorry if I wasn't clear on that in my post. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:00
  • 1
    @BobsaysreinstateMonica I can confirm that I do feel discouraged from participating. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:01
  • 2
    I do not share the perception that it is impolite. Possibly we'll have to agree to disagree. It is imo factually stating reality. I have failed audits in my life, and it never did discourage me to participate. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:02
  • 1
    @Felix forgive me if I'm wrong, but your name suggests you might not be a native English speaker. Perhaps that might explain some of the difference in perception? Jan 22, 2020 at 18:31
  • 1
    @Doug I think both SE Inc and "the community" have become so used to taking volunteer effort for granted that they don't realise when they're doing it. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:33
  • 1
    No. Saying "you failed" is not OK without context; say why you failed! What is the purpose of such an audit? To hand out slap-downs? Or to assist with making reviews better? If the latter, then it should provide useful & actionable feedback. Otherwise it's the audit that has failed. Because as it stands it's only going to deter people from reviewing. Jan 22, 2020 at 18:59
  • 2
    @BobsaysreinstateMonica Not sure you include me in "the community" there, but having made several thousand reviews on the various queues on SO, I most definitely do not take my own work for granted. I do wish newcomers and folks who did like ten reviews in total did take us veteran reviewers a bit less like we had no idea what we're talking about. Jan 22, 2020 at 19:25

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