The internet is an outlet for many people to "talk tough" without having to face the accused. Stack Overflow (et. al.) is somewhat of an exception with a strong sense of community. Criticisms are usually constructive. However, some users are near belligerent and somewhat "poisonous" to the feel of community. If left unchecked, it could become a contagious problem.

Are there any ideas on how to promote civility?

Example of problem: read the recent activity of the following user: https://stackoverflow.com/users/285587?tab=activity

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    Welcome to Meta Stack Overflow, Emile! For what it's worth, that particular user has been discussed before. – Pops Oct 15 '10 at 19:18
  • Thanks @Popular Demand!!....would it be best if I removed the example? – Kyle Oct 15 '10 at 19:20
  • or delete the question since it's already discussed? – Kyle Oct 15 '10 at 19:21
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    Vaguely related: Why are Stack Overflow people nice?. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Oct 15 '10 at 19:27
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    No, you're asking about civility in general, and just using that user as an example; the other post was specifically about the user. I think you're okay. Unless there's already a general civility question too... which there actually probably is, but I don't see it. This is related, though: Could we please be a bit nicer to the noobs? – Pops Oct 15 '10 at 19:46

Depending on how bothered you are by the activity you see, here's what you should do (in order of escalation):

  1. Ignore the post and move on.
  2. Downvote the post.
  3. Flag the post as offensive.
  4. Flag the post for moderator attention, explaining why you think it needs it.
  5. Email "the team" (team@stackoverflow.com) to discuss the problem.

The specific user you provided an example about is a bit of an exception to how things usually work around here. More often, users are either helpful or hurtful. Plenty of hurtful users have been essentially banned from the site already. This user is helpful, but still caustic. I would make a little noise with the mods (see step 4, above) to make sure they are aware that he continues to be an issue.

  • Thanks Jon B! Good annoyance flow chart you gave! I think #1 is the Buddha way. #2-#5 are good methods from protecting the SO feel. But you're right, this user is helpful. He could be more so with social skills to match his technical ones, but I'm sure he's a net positive for SO. – Kyle Oct 15 '10 at 20:42

If you think something is uncivil, flag it and let a moderator deal with it.

If it's actually uncivil, the content will be changed or removed, and the user possibly warned or banned. If it's civil, then you'll know either by it's remaining there or a moderator comment saying so.

  • +1 Thanks! Good points. I forgot about flags. – Kyle Oct 15 '10 at 20:39

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