As far as I know, every site still has a Comment Flag for "It's unfriendly or unkind".

Under the previous Code of Conduct, "unfriendly or unkind" was defined, and the bar was pretty low:

No subtle put-downs or unfriendly language.
Even if you don’t intend it, this can have a negative impact on others.

Unfriendly Friendly
❌ “You could Google this in 5 seconds.” ✔️ “This is called Invariance and Covariance. If you Google it, you’ll find tutorials that can explain it much better than we can in an answer here.”
❌ “If you bothered to read my question, you’d know it’s not a duplicate.” ✔️ “I don’t think this is a duplicate. My question is about cement board, while the question you linked is about drywall.”
❌ “Are you speaking English? If so, I can’t tell.” ✔️ “I’m having trouble understanding your question. I think you’re asking how to add a swap after system installation. Is that correct?”
❌ “I came to get help, not to get my question edited.” ✔️ “Thanks for trying to help, but your edit isn’t what I meant. I’ve removed your edit, and have updated my question so it’s clearer.”

No name-calling or personal attacks.


And the last two, "No bigotry/harassment" are the only ones covered in the new policy.

The rest of it is completely missing from the new CoC. I recall users mentioning this when commenting on the initial draft of the new CoC, but apparently it still got left out for some reason. It doesn't seem to be intentional; if it was, I would think the Comment Flag option would have been removed as well.

The new CoC seems to swing to the other extreme, and set a very high bar. The closest match I can find for the old "Unfriendly or Unkind" is the new Abusive Behavior, with examples being Bullying and Harassment, Hostile comments, Dangerous speech, Bigotry & Discrimination, Dehumanization, and Extremism.

That's all well and good, but what is the policy on "subtle put-downs or unfriendly language" and other "Unfriendly or Unkind" language under the new CoC?

I've had a few comment flags declined recently that, to me, would appear unfriendly or unkind under the old CoC:

In response to an off-topic question:

Why did you not stop and check what type of questions are allowed here before asking? Thats really rude.

[question OP] It's not [programming related] I know, but on reddit noone's answering my question


What's happening on other sites is irrelevant. Your question is not programming related, so it is off-topic for this site. Just because you don't find help somewhere else does not make it OK to post noise here.

IMHO, calling a user "rude", or their post "noise" seem to be perfect examples of the old CoC's "subtle put-downs or unfriendly language."

But under the new policy, I'm not sure. What is acceptable? What is not?

  • 7
    Note: If one ctrl+fs for "examples" in the feedback post, at least three users (including me) posted that they liked the old list examples and wanted it back. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I'm not aware of an explanation for that being given.
    – starball
    Aug 23 at 19:18
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    I wouldn't call calling someone "rude" a "subtle put down". some people really are rude (hence those flag reasons). on the other hand, there's usually not much point in commenting about someone's rudeness- just flag.
    – starball
    Aug 23 at 19:20
  • The comment is no longer needed. Flag it as such and raise a close vote/flag on the post and move on. Comments shouldn't be used as an additional place to state a close reason.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 23 at 19:21
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    @starball Yes, but look at it in context. The user just called the other (new) user "rude" based on them posting an off-topic question. I guess I need to edit to clarify that. Aug 23 at 20:57
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    @NotTheDr01ds I saw the context. I'm trying to make sure your statement doesn't get generalized out of context.
    – starball
    Aug 23 at 21:05
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    @starball Good point, and glad I edited. Thanks! Aug 23 at 22:55
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    None of these comments seem rude, or in any way qualified for deletion based on being unfriendly. That said, you have stripped all necessary context from these comments. They seem a bit halfway towards being somewhat unfriendly, but we don't have the context to make proper judgments! Aug 24 at 1:20
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    @AndreasismovingtoCodidact Criticizing the author instead of the post is what makes these comments unfriendly. Comments are not for correcting rudeness; that’s what flags are for.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 24 at 11:15
  • It may be nitpicking but an example list can never be exhaustive. Even according to the old rules, just reading the examples shouldn't be enough. Maybe one could apply the new rules on the old examples and obtain new examples. Aug 24 at 16:39
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    @NoDataDumpNoContribution While I agree in principle, the nice thing about the examples was simply that they showed just how low the tolerance level was. If "You could Google that in 5 seconds" is out bounds ... ;-) Aug 24 at 17:08
  • @AndreasismovingtoCodidact That's odd - I honestly believe I put all the necessary context (e.g., predicate comments and actions) in my post short of linking directly to the content. Starball did notice some context that I missed the first time around, so I added it in, but that was in the comments just above yours. Aug 24 at 17:10
  • @NotTheDr01ds Yes, but what about "I believe a search would quickly given a suitable result." for example? There are always new examples that are possible to find. If you just want to convey that the tolerance level is low, just say it. Presumably the tolerance level hasn't been lifted in the last iteration of the CoC. Aug 24 at 20:05
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    @ColleenV What exactly do you expect the response to "It's not [programming related] I know, but on reddit noone's answering my question" to be? A flag? No, that's inappropriate. The response to that comment is not rude, and is simply explaining the user what we expect on SO. A cold and impersonal flag doesn't educate them; a comment does. | The first comment is likely a response to something stupid written in the question body, such as "don't downvote, that's so rude". I don't see the context/links that NotTheDr01ds is referring to. Aug 27 at 7:15

3 Answers 3


Regardless of the exact wording of the Code of Conduct, the line for unfriendly or unkind flags has always been the judgement of the site's moderators. If you're flagging in good faith, I wouldn't worry about a mod disagreeing with you. If there are a lot of unfriendly comments happening on a site (in your opinion), then it's time for a meta discussion so the community can come to an agreement on whether certain types of comments are appropriate or not.


Both of those comments should have been deleted, and are invalid under the new CoC. The second one is simply No Longer Needed, but regarding the first one... it assumes poor faith and then describes the OP's action(s) as "rude". It is certainly No Longer Needed, but I'd do Unfriendly or Unkind. Explicitly, it violates the following:

[...] we expect all users to treat one another with kindness and respect

Also, the new CoC references this page, which includes

Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post

and this one, under when to not comment

Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, downvote [...]

Calling someone out for not reading the rules is accusatory, is not "constructive criticism", is not "treating others with kindness and respect", and isn't productive.

Also... even if someone is being rude... calling them out on it in a comment is nearly never the right answer. If they missed a rule (or several), a polite comment explaining what they missed or linking them to the specific guideline they missed is useful. If they are attacking other users, then just flag it. Either way, stating that they are being rude doesn't help anyone.

Let's review writing a good comment, though. While the full list is for the SG, some of the advice is still helpful:

  • Post-specific comments yield the best results - generic comments are often less helpful. Sure, they are quicker. But, they also help the OP less.
  • Provide supportive feedback; if it is ignored, just move on - If you have something constructive to say [that is allowed], you can say it. If they ignore it, then move on. Or, if you don't have anything useful to say, also move on.

In general, though, when writing comments, try to give specific and actionable feedback, such as "Please include the code as a code block, not as an image. Thank you!".

If you have nothing helpful to say, you can always downvote and VTC (or, flag to close) if you don't want to leave a constructive comment.

Saying "You didn't read the rules. That's rude!" isn't helpful. Best case, they go there and find themselves with a wall of links. Worse case, they take offense and then retaliate, and one or more suspensions get handed out.

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    I wouldn't apply the guidance for SG to public Q&A. Staging ground commentary is not intended to function the same as comemntary on public Q&A. They are quite different.
    – starball
    Aug 23 at 20:37
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    just one example: "Prefer granular pieces of feedback to longer comments" is not good guidance for public Q&A. too many comments and you trigger the suggestion to move to chat.
    – starball
    Aug 23 at 21:11
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    @starball I've requested in the past that people should be able to move things to chat themselves without having to wait for that suggestion - it's often easy to see that things will go in that direction and preempt the matter. Ideally, questions would start closed, in a mini-chat environment, specifically so that the question can be workshopped to ensure that it makes sense for the site. (That is, to my understanding, more or less what SG is trying to achieve; but given how the Ask Question Wizard turned out, I'm still skeptical.) Aug 24 at 1:06

Why did you not stop and check what type of questions are allowed here before asking? Thats really rude.

The called-out behaviour is rude, and it's not in turn rude to say so (although it isn't necessary, either). However, it is completely inappropriate to personalize the criticism like this. Constructive criticism entails suggesting what to do going forward, not simply pointing out what was wrong with previous actions; and it especially does not entail seeking reasons or excuses for those actions. It creates the impression that one is going to find fault with any further response, anyway. I would find that quite condescending; it reminds me literally of how a parent scolds a child.

Instead, this comment should refer to the appropriate guideline documents (such as the site's "how to ask" page) and explicitly state what off-topic category the question falls into.

What's happening on other sites is irrelevant. Your question is not programming related, so it is off-topic for this site. Just because you don't find help somewhere else does not make it OK to post noise here.

"Noise" is a term of art on the Stack Exchange network (especially Stack Overflow) and I expect you will have a very hard time convincing most moderators that there's anything wrong here. The phrasing could certainly be better, for example:

Please read What topics can I ask about here?. Questions on Stack Overflow must be programming related; the fact that you aren't receiving an answer on other sites simply doesn't matter here. Please also keep in mind that we do not operate a help desk; questions here are intended to help build a reference library, not simply to solve your problem.

but I certainly wouldn't call the example you found a code of conduct violation. It can be flagged "no longer needed" as, as soon as OP has received the feedback, nobody else particularly needs to see it. IMX, moderators rarely decline "no longer needed" flags on a comment that hasn't been upvoted (and often not even then); comments are supposed to be ephemeral anyway.

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