37

I was initially going to post this as an answer to Why do certain commenters take a rude tone with new users?, but I think there's a bigger problem here that requires more discussion.

Let's ignore the fact that the answer to that question was out-of-scope for a moment. That's the root cause of what was ultimately a justified action, but it's not the answer to what OP said, and after spending a small but significant amount of time reviewing, I'm noticing some patterns over and over again that jibe with their complaint.

The general pattern: SU has a problem with newbie biting.

This pattern includes, in my experience:

  • Curt, unhelpful, unkind comments left by reviewers in general
  • Long-time high-rep users being unfriendly/unkind enough to warrant having their comments flagged off
  • Questions being closed without so much as a perfunctory or even Pro-forma "here's what you did wrong" commentary
  • Widespread misuse of two specific closure votes:
    • "Needs details or clarity" when the question is detailed enough on its own to be answered, and sometimes, already was answered and accepted
    • "Needs focus" when only one question is was asked, and the user is speculating about possible solutions in the question (or in some cases, just giving further info!)
  • Pile-on downvoting in meta
  • General stinginess with upvoting on main (even when the questions "show research effort, are useful, and clear," as the tooltip on the button says.)
  • VTCs for things where downvotes are more appropriate

Two things this post is not:

First, this is not a callout post. I have two or three specific people in mind with some of the issues I mentioned above, but the thrust of this post is the site's general atmosphere rather than the conduct of those people. If you think I'm talking about you, I probably am, but I don't want to litigate that here and turn what is supposed to be gentle ask to consider the guy on the other side of the keyboard into a public drama fire. I am not asking you to account for your actions, I am not slagging you off. I am asking you to reflect, nothing more.

Second, this post is not an attempt to relitigate specific review votes in specific circumstances. Everyone has their reasons for voting the way they do, and I sincerely do not think anyone who's been here long enough to obtain tens of thousands of points is some mustachioed cartoon villain or BOFH expy who's out to make people miserable on purpose.

What this post is, is me imploring reviewers to consider their actions before taking them, not just on the quality of the site, but also on the people you will impact by those actions. And I don't just mean by your votes; I mean how you communicate their consequences. I would gently ask that you consider the following:

Many users don't know what they don't know

If you have a high rep here, that indicates you are highly knowledgeable in a few technical aspects. Lots of the questioners coming in don't have that same knowledge and don't even know how to ask the "right" question yet because they're missing some vital piece of terminology or understanding of the subject matter.

Nothing about SU indicates that it's for experts only. That is because it isn't. The audience and average user not being experts mean that they will come along with objectively stupid questions that any familiarity with the subject matter would answer. But we don't, and shouldn't, require that familiarity in the first place. People do come here at the ends of their ropes, meaning they don't know where else to go. Often in that many words - and yet we nuke their questions with the "clarity" reason because they "didn't show research effort".

With all due respect, what research effort would you have them expend? Their post already indicated they don't know where to go!

Is it more useful, to SU, to them, and to the people who may encounter the question in the future, to comment asking for clarity and edit once that clarity is received, or immediately write off the question as unsalvageable and silently VTC it? If that clarity never comes, meaning the question is non-useful, by all means, you should VTC it, with the full knowledge that ROV is a black hole (more often than not, no amount of editing will get a question out of there, especially for the more subjective close reasons. Anything that's marked [closed] can be considered the site's trash bin.)

I want you to think about whether the "clarity" is actually lacking. I find that it's obvious, more often than not, what is being asked. If it's not blindingly obvious, but it's there, that's an explicitly stated purpose of the edit button. If it's an XY question, why not ask if their goal is X?

Closing a question is a hostile action regardless of intention

...in that, it will be received as such. Every criticism of the Stack* network you find online includes the willingness of reviewers to take adverse action on otherwise reasonable, useful questions at the drop of a hat.

That pisses people off. There's no way it can't piss people off. They were not attacked, but they don't know it yet. Not unless they have spent enough time on the site to get their head around some of the more unintuitive aspects, because:

The rep requirements have pathological downsides that are guaranteed to result in users doing things they're not supposed to do

...and resulting in annoyance for all parties concerned.

Let's consider the case of a random Google user who encountered a useful answer here. They find a well-written question, a solution that completely solves their problem. What will their first instinct be? Thank the person who made it! "I'm gonna go create an account and give this guy kudos. This was awesome!"

And so we have JaneNewbie.. 1 point, no badges.

So what do they do? First, they try to upvote the answer, question, or both. Blocked. Angry red popup box. She doesn't get that ability until 15.

Jane thinks, "Okay, votes must be serious here. Maybe I can just say 'thanks' in a comment"? Blocked. She can't comment until 50 (and she shouldn't use comments for that anyway, but she doesn't know that yet).

The only avenue left to her is the answer box, which she uses because she doesn't know better yet. It looks like any other input box and fulfills the immediate goal of letting her communicate.

If she comes back later, she sees that her well-intentioned attempt to thank someone who helped her with some great content has wound up with an unappreciative flag on the account and possibly some restrictions depending on how many -1s they got piled on.

Now she's annoyed. If incredibly persistent or annoyed, she might wind up on meta and ask what I call the "y u do dis" special. The tone of this post will be upset. They will say unkind things. They will accuse the reviewers of being thoughtless jerks, or worse. Said question will be invariably bombarded with downvotes (likely with some rude comments added that barely qualify as nice enough not to be flag-bait) and closed as a duplicate because this pattern is hardly new.

JaneNewbie closes her tab, leaving SU, likely never to return, soured on the whole experience. If asked, she will refer to SU as an unfriendly bunch of elitists who got unreasonably mad at her when all he wanted to do was thank a guy who helped her out.

Jane is annoyed because this entire process was a waste of her time.

The reviewers and longtime members are annoyed because another clueless newb didn't read the tour and didn't get it.

This entire pattern is harmful. It could also be short-circuited in a few ways.

  1. Some of the basic expectations could be made more apparent upfront. Not in a "this is how the site works" way like the tour does, but in a "don't make this handful of common mistakes" way before the newbie takes their first action.
  2. The upvote requirement could be lowered to 1. Failing that:
  3. The person who reviews Jane's bogus answer still needs to flag it for not being an answer, but they could add a gentle comment (one comment, these shouldn't be piled on by five different people) about why they're doing what they're doing. Failing that:
  4. When the user winds up in meta, they could not be bombarded with downvotes (anyone who uses a site with a karma system can tell you that being downvoted is unpleasant, regardless of the site's justification for those votes). Failing that:
  5. They could be explained to, patiently, how the site works.

Any of these steps taken alone could very potentially turn 1 point JaneNewbie into 10K point Jane months to years down the line. Or, at the very least, they won't go on to turn other users off the site because their very first interaction with it was filled with unfriendliness.

You'll note that at no point here did I talk about Jane's behavior. First off, Jane is a newbie. She's ranting on meta because she feels attacked and doesn't know any better yet. You, on the other hand, replying to her post, probably do know better. What's your excuse?

If you've been in tech long enough to back up your rep, you already know the golden rule: Users don't read docs. Users will take context clues, they can be guided, but most of them will never touch the tour. The tour is tl;dr. JaneNewbie will do stupid things out of ignorance, and expecting her (or most users) to understand how the site works in whole before using it is simply not realistic. People with experience in technology and psychology that outmatches that of every person that will read this post combined have been trying to do so for years.

SU is not going to be the final bastion that finally gets users to RTFM. We can either rage against it or we can accept that users will do stupid things out of ignorance and dealt with it in the most effective way possible for all involved.

Nothing about what I've asked here requires compromising SU's quality

I'm certainly not asking you to flag crap less or vote in ways contrary to the guidelines. The guidelines are reliable, and their precise application has led to this and the rest of the SE network being a fantastic resource.

But it does require effort. It takes more effort to be friendly and helpful than it does to be unfriendly and unhelpful.

It also takes more time, but SU isn't that busy compared to some of the other sites on the network. Most of the queues are either at zero or in the single digits more often than not. I don't think that there is some time pressure that requires you to blast through your 20 reviews/queue/day in a big hurry, and I think you agree.

The common refrain on meta here and on other Stack* metas is that people don't want to waste their time, not with clueless noobs, not with "help vampires," not with whatever.

To that end, my final ask:

Why are you here?

If you're not a paid employee of SE, and you've got tons of rep... why are you here? Why did you spend hours researching and crafting answers to questions, reviewing and editing questions and answers and so forth?

It's probably because you wanted to help people. At the end of the day, you are providing a service.

All of these things I just got done complaining about? They represent failures to help people. Is it genuinely going to take you that much more time to write a thoughtful comment when someone screws up rather than smacking that "close" button and moving on to the next review out of your 20? Is it really worth forever turning off someone because you were afraid you were going to spend effort being nice to someone who might not reciprocate?

This is all words on a screen at the end of the day. The time expenditure on being nice is minimal, and it pays dividends.

I want to help people more. That's why I'm writing this.

I hope you do too.

Concrete takeaways (tl;dr)

"Well, that was all very touchy-feely and nice, but what are you asking?"

  • Vote up more, in general. Votes on main SU are for usefulness, not exceptionality. There are a lot of good questions and answers out there that don't deserve the 0 scores they have, and comparatively few crap questions and answers that have an unjustifiably high score.
  • Consider whether your VTC shouldn't be a downvote instead.
  • Remember that a VTC effectively means "I think this is such crap that it should go away." It is "delete" with extra steps.
  • Consider whether something that already has one downvote needs four more.
  • Explain your work when you VTC things. Any first VTC without a comment is probably unhelpful in most cases. You are going to tick people off, necessarily. Nobody likes being told they screwed up... but you can and should soften the blow.
  • That goes double if you're a moderator and your "votes" are binding. The automatic header that comes up when you close something lacks critical context. It often fails to explain "why". Write a comment.
  • Consider whether an auto-message is the most appropriate way to inform someone they screwed up. Auto-messages are factual, but they are officious, not friendly.
  • If a newbie disagrees with you on some aspect of site policy, consider that it's out of ignorance first and not out of malice or because they don't like you.

tl;dr for the tl;dr:

For the love of $deity, be more friendly to the users. It won't hurt you at all, and it won't break the site in the least.

  • 8
    I think this is the too much crap problem. It's not against "new users". Everyone here was a "new user" at some point. The problem is that "new users" are the ones most likely posting bad content that are met with this response. There are no good solution other than rising the bar of entry. – Braiam Jan 8 at 23:13
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    @pigeonburger - I am abused by new users daily, I ignore it, and don’t make a big stink about it. – Ramhound Jan 9 at 22:40
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    I think there is a different problem that amplifies or “enables” this problem. It’s language. Many (top) contributors here are not native English speakers. I often read comments that are basically super rude. However, I firmly believe they are almost never meant that way. Others, especially new users, may not see it my way. – Daniel B Jan 10 at 15:50
  • 1
    Bears repeating. Tone does not convey well over text, which is why it's important to put extra effort into ensuring that what's received isn't overly negative. – Karu Jan 10 at 16:46
  • Reviewing the reviewers, trias politica at it's finest. – DFSFOT Jan 11 at 11:11
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    Regarding not breaking the site: Yes it can. Not voting to close effects what visible on the home page which effects the ability of people to find the pearls which make the stack-exchange network special. As just one example. Or spending more time to put in a personalised comment about what is needed to answer a bad question means less time to answer good ones. There are plenty of statistics showing answer rate and voting rate across the network is dropping. This is not a simple problem. – user1937198 Jan 11 at 13:25
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    Given the limited metal bandwidth of users compared to the number of questions coming in, at least two of your TL;DRs: Vote more, and Consider whether something with x downvotes needs more, are in direct opposition. – user1937198 Jan 11 at 13:30
  • And thats before you get into the fact that increasing the friction of moderation reduces peoples willingness to get involved in such tasks, reducing the total available bandwidth. – user1937198 Jan 11 at 13:33
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    @DanielB I'm not a native English speaker and I may not know when I'm being rude. True. On the other hand comments are limited in length so "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to clarify" is not always handy. Especially when I'm addressing many issues. I want to improve though. Can you give me an example of a super rude comment you spotted? Let's not point to a certain somebody else's comment publicly; but maybe some of my comments qualify. Thank you for your time. – Kamil Maciorowski Jan 12 at 7:03
  • @KamilMaciorowski "super rude" comments are flag bait and won't have much of a lifetime on the site. In fact, "rude" isn't even the bar for something being flaggable, it's "unkind or unfriendly". – Karu Jan 13 at 3:48
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    @Karu I just stopped offering any comments of any sort when voting due that undefined bullshit of unkind and unfriendly. Problem solved. – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 13 at 11:26
  • I do wonder about certain users who have downvoted say 50K posts on the site, and have upvoted only a small fraction of that. Why are they here, if they think most of the content on the site is bad? – pacoverflow Jan 14 at 19:16
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    @pacoverflow Because maybe some content is bad. This comment of mine is what I think about it. – Kamil Maciorowski Jan 14 at 20:07
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    "You're not encouraging new people use Q&A site as a forum!" Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Why? – Oleg V. Volkov Jan 16 at 6:04
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    @pacoverflow - “Why are they here, if they think most of the content on the site is bad?” - The only action I enjoy is answering questions. Everything that prevents me from doing that isn’t fun, but if I didn’t do those actions also, the amount of noise would prevent me from answering the questions I know how to answer. Voting is one way to make sure the noise is removed. – Ramhound Jan 16 at 12:14

10 Answers 10

15

There's a lot to respond to here, and there's a lot to take in (and I'm a little distracted today, so lots of major edits ahoy!)

While I usually go point by point, I think its broad enough that I'd like to talk about more general things. I promise this isn't a wookiee defence.

On Comments


I'm not a fan of canned comments - but as someone who used to write specific, detailed comments on every post I closed as a regular user and a moderator, it takes up a lot of bandwidth. I'd love for folks with the time/energy to do so to do that.

I do think that we do abuse comments a bit. They're a source of friction, and sometimes even experienced users get it wrong.

Its worth remembering that we often don't have a choice over review autocomments, and they were put in place, pretty much because it was an option between no comments and canned ones - if folks wouldn't comment.

And well, sometimes, people don't want help to be better. They want an answer. Now. And that's wearying on some folks and we get grumpy. Its no excuse, of course.

I guess for us long time users, sometimes it worth reminding ourselves other don't have a decade or half decade of experience, or the opportunity to grow with the site. As much as we share and 'teach' our knowledge on PC, to some extent, helping people get to grips with effective site usage is something we need to sustain ourselves over time.

On the Ewok problem


Back in the good old days, Jeff Atwood compared the original trilogy to the star wars movies

One word: ewoks. But also, Leia in a bikini. Still canon, but little odder than the earlier movies. In other words, things are going to get a little .. crazy .. in the finale

You would notice that the scopes there have changed over time. In a sense - our scope has evolved, and somewhat narrowed over time simply cause we've found its not worked that well. We even were the source of the network wide rule on product recs and we kind of had to figure out where that fit in our site

Its slightly unintiutive, and we worked around our own rules.

And its really difficult to sum stuff like that. Even Serverfault, which had a much better defined scope to start with had a few issues with what's on topic and what's not, and its own drama over time.

Ewoks are just as likely to make friends, as to roast and eat you, or topple your empire.

More seriously - getting new users to a grasp on the SE way of doing things, that's evolved over a decade is a problem that SE has been trying to tackle for ages. They tried a wizard (which apparently didn't have the expected results).

Anything dosen't go - but there's often disagreements on the lines. Quite a lot of the time, it is hard for newbies to get, and I guess we can do better.

Sometimes though, stuff is so vague that salvaging it is difficult, and some folks speculatively post answers that might end up being unhelpful.

At one point, we called 'closure' 'on hold' instead. And closed (or even deleted) posts can be salvaged and reopened/undeleted. There's at least a little onus on the original poster to make at least a minimal effort though.

Running a Q&A site is hard.

On burnout, turnover and the critical mass of meta


I've not written one of these in ages. Admittedly, I'm not modding Super User as actively as I used to (work, and main meta seems to have more of my attention), but I noticed that my pattern of modding, or being a power user changed. I'm on the site less than I was - and when I am, its mostly flags that take my attention. The other mods leave not many flags for me to do, but if mods are doing most of the closures, we're also suffering from a lack of engagement. I used to hand write comments for every post I closed (and to this day, lost meta folks aside, I try to!), but its a lot of work.

I suspect a lot of the grumpiness is seeing a lot of the same thing, folks having a bit of an attitude with folks trying to help, and no small amount of burnout.

I don't blame the community, its been a pretty horribad 2019 and 2020 but folks are a lot less active-feeling than they did when I was a newbie. I guess we can do better but that needs a bit of a rejuvination, and that's going to take a lot of work, and spoons.

I'm going to steal a snippet of a nightwish song I am fond of

"Better to light a candle than to curse the dark"

We can do better. If you see something that should be open, make a case for it. Post a comment letting the user what's wrong if you can. Meta if it needs more attention. If you can let us know.

I'll try to spend a little bit more time, and try to help out where I can. I can't be everywhere, so to a big extent, the fix to this is more folks stepping up and letting us know what we're missing, and sheperding our newbies if the mods get too nippy.

  • 1
    Nightwish can teach us all quite a bit. While this isn't a social network, "How's the heart?" is something we should at least be thinking about when approaching...anyone, anywhere, really...but in context of this discussion, particularly when approaching a new, unfamiliar user. Is this user stressed because of any number of external, unmentioned factors? Possibly, or in this day, maybe even probably. Considering how the user's emotional state may be when asking their first question is a good way to bring the humanity back into an inherently semi-robotic medium. – ND Geek Jan 15 at 16:52
12

I'll just add some rules I'm trying to follow. I've been guilty of all these things (and sometimes still am, probably), but at some point I've recognized them as harmful for the community.

When downvoting or VTC, always try to leave a comment

Is the question unclear? Let OP know what information is missing or which part you don't understand. Is there no info whatsoever? Tell them that you can't just guess what their issue is and what details they should provide. I know, I know: "it doesn't work plz help" and other users with magical thinking grind our gears, but bashing them doesn't get them any closer to understanding the problem with the way they ask for help.

Is the formatting bad? Let them know that the question is hard to read and they have to improve it, otherwise people who could help them won't even bother with reading it. This tells them why good formatting is important and that it's in their best interest to care about it. Tip: [edit] in a comment magically turns into an edit link.

Is it slightly off-topic and there are no sites where it could be migrated? Consider at least nudging OP in the right direction in the comments. Maybe recommend a non-Stack* community if you're aware of one.

The question is chatty and doesn't fit the Q&A format? Heck, consider abusing the comments sections and being helpful.

TL;DR: Use downvotes and VTC to be helpful, not toxic.

Think twice before closing as unclear

Is the question actually unclear, or is it just unclear for you because you're not an expert on the topic?

On multiple occasions I was able to provide a complete, detailed solution and just solve someone's problem, but the question got closed as unclear when I was typing the answer. I can vote to reopen, but my one vote is not enough. Even if it actually gets reopened later, I probably won't get back to it and it may remain unanswered.

At the end of the day maybe it's better to leave a question opened and unanswered, rather than closed while it could be answered?

Recognize if OP tries to improve

We're not here to discipline users, but to help them. Don't punish them for not making the question perfect or not knowing something. Work with them towards that goal instead. You're more knowledgeable than them, so try to get them on your level.

If OP keeps editing the question, maybe it's better to abstain from the final VTC to avoid discouraging them?

Avoid emotionally loaded adjectives

Pointing at specific problems with a post is much nicer and more productive than expressing how you feel about it.

Rather than call a question "badly written", you could say it's not cleanly formatted or that it lacks proper punctuation and capitalization and is therefore hard to read.

An answer may be a "terrible advice", but it's better to say that it's factually incorrect, based on false premise, risky or potentially harmful.

  • 1
    Fun fact: this answer has 1 downvote and there's no comment explaining it, therefore the downvoter doesn't agree with the first point already ;) – gronostaj Jan 11 at 10:02
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    Which is incredibly frustrating when you know what you're doing and are actively trying to grow. Was my answer bad, or the solution? Or did you just not like it? – John Neuhaus Jan 12 at 17:47
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Low-hanging fruit: put voting buttons on ALL review queues, either in their typical place to the left of the post being reviewed, or in line with the other review buttons. Make them an explicit option for reviewing.

  • How exactly will that encourage new users? – DavidPostill Jan 8 at 20:51
  • @DavidPostill In the case of “Close Votes,” “Reopen Votes,” “Low Quality Posts” and “Suggested Edits” there have been many cases where I wanted to upvote a post but couldn’t. If I feel like it I might open a new tab/window and do that. Right now, it feels a bit constrained. – Giacomo1968 Jan 8 at 22:59
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    @Giacomo1968 Yeah, but it would also make it easier to downvote as well ... – DavidPostill Jan 8 at 23:18
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    I'm happy to hand our more downvotes than close votes, but because the close button is closer, I'll use that. It's always a judgement call: is there enough merit to justify the two clicks, page loads, and scrolling, to get to the voting button instead of the ready and available close button? – music2myear Jan 9 at 2:29
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    @music2myear The issue here is while the question is passionate — and makes very good points as well — the “problem” is Stack Exchange sites are ultimately unique in the way that forums are not: There are a lot more controls to focus posting on a Q&A goal where other forums are just free-for-all sites. And people are not used to that. This is all ultimately a UX and social engineering issue. – Giacomo1968 Jan 9 at 4:49
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    Yea, a significant number of people treat the site like a forum, and I comment with some regularity that SU isn't a forum, that forums exist, and SU is OK with that difference. – music2myear Jan 10 at 3:18
8

"SU has a newbie-biting problem" Really? As usual, we are ignoring here the bigger elephant in the room. Until profile age or some sort of stronger authentication+some effort to create profiles is required, there is no proof whatsoever low-rep users are newbie users.

What we have here in SE, is drive by users who actively do not want to abide with the quality requirements and make effort asking questions, and who are the most vocal complaining they are "mistreated". And the regular users who are "punished" and saddled with the community rules. Sadly, I think, and it is just my personal opinion, this seems to be in the best interest of stack exchange to inflate artificially user numbers.

I would never would wish being in a moderator's shoes when the shift of burden of dealing with those users is imposed on other users, and asking for rules defining the regular users have to make several thousands more a bigger effort the original askers are actively avoiding to make and flouting rules creating drive-by users by the thousands, seems too unfair and twisted.

  • Exactly, something we can agree on. +1 – Tim_Stewart Jan 19 at 23:20
4

A large majority of bad questions I see from newbies are people seeking a conversation about how to solve a problem. They don't have their SE qualified question yet because they haven't made it that far before getting stuck. I often find myself telling new users that their question is better suited for a forum where discussion occurs. SE's Q&A format is not a forum and if there is a long discussion in the comments the site tells you to stop doing that and take it to chat.

Maybe the solution is to bring new users to a new user chat first. This new user chat can bring them to topic specific chats. The topic specific chats can tell the user "Ok, now you have a question. Go post that on this board:". We would need to be careful not to provide all the answers in chat because then it's not documented in the Q&A system. This would be a natural flow to getting help and learning how things go. There can be sticky or canned responses given by chat moderators. The mods of new user chat could even have the power to award points in chat that would give the new user power to upvote or comment. This would be a simple way to prove that the new user isn't a spammer or a robot, and validate that they are here to join the community.

The only downside I see to my solution is that it's a lot of work. It depends upon people in chat acting as ambassadors to the site. I think it's worth a try. If it doesn't work organically then maybe SE employees need to fill that role.

3

First, this is not a callout post. I have two or three specific people in mind with some of the issues I mentioned above, but the thrust of this post is the site's general atmosphere rather than the conduct of those people. If you think I'm talking about you, I probably am, but I don't want to litigate that here and turn what is supposed to be gentle ask to consider the guy on the other side of the keyboard into a public drama fire. I am not asking you to account for your actions, and I am not slagging you off. I am asking you to reflect, nothing more.

Despite your stating it isn't a callout post it most certainly reads like one in my opinion. Many of the things you point and claim is hostile behavior, for instance not adding additional personalized commentary when closing a question, actually goes against the community guidance I have read over at meta.stackexchange.com and meta.stackoverflow.com

I am sure I will repeat the statement that closing a question is not actually considered to be rude or hostile behavior. Additionally, voting to remove a contribution and not personalizing a comment, that explains the reason the contribution was removed is not actually considered rude or hostile behavior. If anyone can show me clear guidance that says otherwise, I will change my approach, and kindly explain my votes to delete and close contributions.

Second, this post is not an attempt to relitigate specific review votes in specific circumstances. Everyone has their reasons for voting the way they do, and I sincerely do not think anyone who's been here long enough to obtain tens of thousands of points is some mustachioed cartoon villain or BOFH expy who's out to make people miserable on purpose.

It actually does seem like an attempt to change the way those users are voting. After reading your question several times, I have no doubt you believe those users are being unreasonable in their actions. I must reiterate the fact that voting on contributions is really not a personal action.

What this post is, is me imploring reviewers to consider their actions before taking them, not just on the quality of the site, but also on the people you will impact by those actions. And I don't just mean by your votes; I mean how you communicate their consequences. I would gently ask that you consider the following:

You really have not been gentle in any of your requests. This is obviously my own opinion, but I am considering our interactions both in the chatroom earlier and in the comment section to actual questions. My opinion is primarily based on the theoretical user's behavior.

It might be essential to point out that I am not asking anyone to disown the behavior of an uninformed user who submits commentary as an answer. Still, it certainly shouldn't be encouraged or justified.

If you have a high rep here, that indicates you are highly knowledgeable in a few technical aspects. Lots of the questioners coming in don't have that same knowledge and don't even know how to ask the "right" question yet because they're missing some vital piece of terminology or understanding of the subject matter.

Reputation does not indicate you are highly knowledgeable. I could give examples of answers that have hundreds of votes, and the only reason they have those votes is being prompted on Twitter. I have a few of those answers. I am honestly dumbfounded when one of those answers are promoted.

Indeed, some of those promoted answers are helpful, but even I can admit some of my own promoted answers don't deserve hundreds of upvotes.

People do come here at the ends of their ropes, meaning they don't know where else to go. Often in that many words - and yet we nuke their questions with the "clarity" reason because they "didn't show research effort".

They also come here and ask questions after doing absolutely no research on the subject. Which of course is fine but they have to be willing to provide the necessary information. Closing their question sometimes is a necessary step in the process of helping those users.

With all due respect, what research effort would you have them expend? Their post already indicated they don't know where to go!

The necessary information required to answer the question.

s it more useful, to SU, to them, and to the people who may encounter the question in the future, to comment asking for clarity and edit once that clarity is received, or immediately write off the question as unsalvageable and silently VTC it? If that clarity never comes, meaning the question is non-useful, by all means, you should VTC it, with the full knowledge that ROV is a black hole (more often than not, no amount of editing will get a question out of there, especially for the more subjective close reasons. Anything that's marked [closed] can be considered the site's trash bin.)

In my opinion, the close reasons while they are not perfect, actually do indicate what is required to answer the question. It is stated in a way that is far superior to what I personally could say in a comment. I choose NOT to submit commentary in these cases. I am also not going to allow somebody to incorrectly state that I am being rude by NOT submitting a comment.

Closing a question is a hostile action regardless of intention in that, it will be received as such. Every criticism of the Stack* network you find online include the willingness of reviewers to take adverse action on otherwise reasonable, useful questions at the drop of a hat.

This is absolutely false

The only avenue left to her is the answer box, which she uses because she doesn't know better yet. It looks like any other input box and fulfills the immediate goal of letting her communicate.

I am not going to quote the entire impractical outline of your example but the user wasn't forced to submit their commentary as an answer. You also won't be able to change my mind that that example is sort of ridiculous.

JaneNewbie closes her tab, leaving SU, likely never to return, soured on the whole experience. If asked, she will refer to SU as an unfriendly bunch of elitists who got unreasonably mad at her when all he wanted to do was thank a guy who helped her out.

So the user is going to leave the community after having a single contribution deleted? We have to keep in mind their single contribution was a comment that would have been automatically deleted after a single flag. If this user is leaving after having a single contribution deleted then we need a better system to avoid commentary being submitted as an answer. Until that better system is released the only tools we have are to delete commentary submitted as an answer.

The upvote requirement could be lowered to 1.

The upvote requirement was set to the current threshold after it was determined it was just low enough to stop unwanted behavior and voter fraud. The requirement for an upvote is meet after having a single contribution upvoted. This requirement cannot be changed by the community users nor should the fact this requirement exists be held against the community.

The person who reviews Jane's bogus answer still needs to flag it for not being an answer, but they could add a gentle comment (one comment, these shouldn't be piled on by five different people) about why they're doing what they're doing.

I am not required to submit a comment when I perform reviews.

You'll note that at no point here did I talk about Jane's behavior. First off, Jane is a newbie. She's ranting on meta because she feels attacked and doesn't know any better yet. You, on the other hand, replying to her post, probably do know better. What's your excuse?

We actually should be talking about their behavior. There actually should be more protections in place to prevent contributions that will be deleted from being submitted in the first place.

If you've been in tech long enough to back up your rep, you already know the golden rule: Users don't read docs. Users will take context clues, they can be guided, but most of them will never touch the tour. The tour is tl;dr. JaneNewbie will do stupid things out of ignorance, and expecting her (or most users) to understand how the site works in whole before using it is simply not realistic. People with experience in technology and psychology that outmatches that of every person that will read this post combined have been trying to do so for years.

I read the help tour when I was a new user. What is their excuse?

I'm certainly not asking you to flag crap less or vote in ways contrary to the guidelines. The guidelines are reliable, and their precise application has led to this and the rest of the SE network being a fantastic resource.

You actually have asked us to do that. You have only spoken about the review actions that are incorrectly and unfairly being perceived as negative events. Closing a question is not a negative event. Removing an answer that is submitted as commentary is a positive event, but in that process, a comment is automatically submitted explaining the reason it was removed.

If you're not a paid employee of SE, and you've got tons of rep... why are you here? Why did you spend hours researching and crafting answers to questions, reviewing and editing questions and answers and so forth?

I am starting to wonder that myself.

All of these things I just got done complaining about? They represent failures to help people. Is it genuinely going to take you that much more time to write a thoughtful comment when someone screws up rather than smacking that "close" button and moving on to the next review out of your 20? Is it really worth forever turning off someone because you were afraid you were going to spend effort being nice to someone who might not reciprocate?

The only failure you describe is the example user who despite everything still submitted their commentary as an answer. It sounds like Stack Exchange needs to do more work to prevent that from happening.

Remember that a VTC effectively means "I think this is such crap that it should go away." It is "delete" with extra steps.

This is absolutely false.

Explain your work when you VTC things. Any first VTC without a comment is probably unhelpful in most cases. You are going to tick people off, necessarily. Nobody likes being told they screwed up... but you can and should soften the blow.

Additional commentary explaining a VTC is unnecessary and likely to be flagged.

Vote up more, in general. Votes on main SU are for usefulness, not exceptionality. There are a lot of good questions and answers out there that don't deserve the 0 scores they have, and comparatively few crap questions and answers that have an unjustifiably high score.

In reality, upvotes and downvotes are equal, and users should upvote helpful contributions and downvote unhelpful contributions.

Consider whether an auto-message is the most appropriate way to inform someone they screwed up. Auto-messages are factual, but they are officious, not friendly.

This is absolutely false. It is not possible for commentary automatically submitted to be unfriendly.

Questions being closed without so much as a perfunctory or even Pro-forma "here's what you did wrong" commentary

Commentary explaining a close vote is not required.

Widespread misuse of two specific closure votes:

  • "Needs details or clarity."
  • "Needs focus"

The individual Stack Exchange website cannot customize these close-reasons. These close reasons are the closest thing to the actual close reason when closing vague unanswerable questions. Closing a question is not a negative event. It's an opportunity for the author to increase the quality of the question.

General stinginess with upvoting on main (even when the questions "show research effort, are useful, and clear," as the tooltip on the button says.)

I don't personally find unclear or broad questions to be helpful. I routinely reverse my downvotes once the question has been clarified so it can be answered.

VTCs for things where downvotes are more appropriate

You literally just got done indicating that there is a widespread issue of misusing two specific, close votes. So I guess that means that we are not supposed to issue close votes against it nor issue a downvote, so it just sits in an unanswerable form. Sooner or later, somebody will come around and say not answering those questions is rude behavior. I personally won't be changing the way we issue close votes until there is a better system released.

I was initially going to post this to answer why certain commenters take a rude tone with new users? But I think there's a bigger problem here that requires more discussion.

Let's ignore the fact that the answer to that question was out-of-scope for a moment. That's the root cause of what was ultimately a justified action, but it's not the answer to what OP said, and after spending a small but significant amount of time reviewing, I'm noticing some patterns over and over again that jibe with their complaint.

Let's not actually ignore the fact that the author was attempting to answer a question that was obviously out of scope. The question was temporarily locked to prevent additional commentary due to their own actions. Voting to close a question that is obviously not within the scope of SuperUser without any commentary is not actually considered rude behavior.

The author in question believes that a moderator should be banned for performing moderator actions. This is the exact type of mindset that typically isn't reasonable, and their negativity should be ignored.

, E.g., look at https://superuser.com/users?tab=Voters&filter=all, and you'll see that the top 2 most active voters have many more downvotes than upvotes (the #1 most active voter has almost 10 times more downvotes than upvotes!). Doesn't sound that positive to me.

I am equally encouraged to issue both downvotes and upvotes. I primarily downvote answers submitted as a comment. I downvote unclear questions. I downvote answers that I feel are technically incorrect. I also upvote helpful correct high-quality contributions.

While the raw statistics indicate that I downvote more than I upvote, it doesn’t indicate that the community is deleting 95% of contributions I downvote. It also doesn’t consider the votes I end up reversing, but not necessarily, replacing with an upvote.

I am not actually required to explain any vote I issue. It doesn’t matter what my upvote to downvote ratio actually is because it doesn’t consider the contributions that I downvote end up being deleted. It’s a ratio of raw votes

If you disagree with any downvote I have issued, you are free to upvote it, which is worth 5x more than an upvote. I am not going to be bullied to not vote on contributions I feel are unhelpful. I am just not going to submit a comment indicating that I believe that.

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    You raise some good points, but I noticed a pattern. You said "false" to a number of statements of perception that are roughly summarized as "this is rude." Whether you intend to be rude or not, you can't dictate how an action is perceived. Regardless of the validity of your other points, this is a bad answer because you are categorically denying the existence of subjective opinions you disagree with. – John Neuhaus Jan 12 at 18:03
  • There is no other way to state that the closing of a question is not actually considered to be rude or hostile behavior other than to indicate that opinion is incorrect. The fact some users are taking the closure of a question to be hostile is a concern, but I don't have the power to do anything about that. Some of the arguments make it appear that both automatic commentary approved by SE developers and no additional commentary is being treated as hostile and rude behavior. That is at least my understanding of some of the arguments made in the author's question. – Ramhound Jan 12 at 18:19
  • I indicated exactly two of the author's statements were false. The fact I believe those statements to be false is obviously my opinion. – Ramhound Jan 12 at 18:24
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    I was nothing but cordial to you in that chat. The degree of hostility you display towards both me, and the statement "you cannot directly control how other people perceive your actions" is breathtaking. – Karu Jan 13 at 3:53
  • @Karu - I didn't actually use "directly" once in my answer. I indicated that I am very particular about the words I use. I never actually made that statement in quotes. I certainly didn't use the word "control" in any revision of my answer. I used Grammarly on a few of those revisions for a reason. While you were not impolite towards me, our conversation was really only one-sided, and I was extremely guarded the entire time. So I wouldn't agree our conversation was warm and friendly. – Ramhound Jan 13 at 3:59
  • Cordial - courteous and gracious; friendly; warm: You were polite. However, I never felt the conversation, was actually friendly or warm. – Ramhound Jan 13 at 4:06
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    In that case, I apologize. I was trying pretty hard there to not come off like a dick, which is hard to do in a conversation where you're expressing concerns about someone's behavior. – Karu Jan 13 at 6:02
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    This black-and-white, "I know the truth and you are wrong", hostile in tone answer is precisely the kind of personality that would give the site a newbie biting problem. It makes the callout sound justified. – Noumenon Jan 13 at 12:26
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    @Noumenon - My answer is cut and dry but I don’t agree it’s hostile. I do believe that a new user submitting commentary as an answer is a black and white problem, and that problem only has one solution, removal of that answer with commentary that explicitly explains the reason (which happens automatically with a review comment). Author isn’t new nor are you. So in my eyes I am being frank with colleagues who are equal. The fact that commentary is not personalized or considered more friendly is the fault of the SE. – Ramhound Jan 13 at 14:08
  • Take the first one, which you referred to in the comment: "...that closing a question is not actually considered to be rude or hostile behavior", "...that opinion is incorrect", "The fact some users are taking the closure of a question to be hostile...". As you agreed, it is in fact considered rude or hostile by one or more users, so that's a.) not an opinion, and b.) correct. Further, an opinion can't be correct or incorrect. – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 19:25
  • The 2nd instance is arguably a continuation of the first (albeit you said "incorrect" not "false" the first time.) "This is absolutely false" in response to "Closing a question is a hostile action regardless of intention in that, it will be received as such.." Thus the same rebuttal applies. – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 19:28
  • 3rd instance: "This is absolutely false." in response to "...a VTC effectively means...". I'll admit that "effectively means" is a stronger claim that could possibly be false. Accepting an implicit "to some people" makes it the same type of statement as the others, however. The inferred statement then is true, because some people do in fact take it to mean that, myself included. I'll allow it is absolutely a valid response even with that meaning in certain cases, and the argument of value is when is it valid – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 19:34
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    4th instance: "This is absolutely false. It is not possible for commentary automatically submitted to be unfriendly." That's just a silly claim, of course it's possible for automatic commentary to be unfriendly. If it said "this is a bad question/answer and you should feel bad," that would pretty clearly be unfriendly. – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 19:38
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    I do say all this in the same spirit of being frank with an equal, and in fact I largely agree with you on the judgement of the content. But that's not the only dimension, or relevant factor for community health. The delivering of that judgement (and subsequently the example it sets, and who it turns away or encourages) and the "path to redemption" (imo an understated aspect) are part and parcel. In fact, I'd argue they're actually what people have the problem with, rather than the criteria or judgement in itself. – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 19:45
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    @JohnNeuhaus - I will look into wording those responses differently. – Ramhound Jan 13 at 20:21
3

If you're not a paid employee of SE, and you've got tons of rep... why are you here? Why did you spend hours researching and crafting answers to questions, reviewing and editing questions and answers and so forth?

Well, the reason I'm here is because I am literally addicted to the website. There have been several occassions which made me want to leave the site entirely, but I can't seem to do so.

I try to not be snippy but.

"Needs details or clarity" when the question is detailed enough on its own to be answered, and sometimes, already was answered and accepted

And if it's not that, then it's questions being mod-closed as "unclear" within minutes, if not seconds after they've been posted. First ask the user to clarify1, wait for them to maybe respond, then resort to moderator tools.

1 Unless you're that moderator who doesn't understand irony and says "please add information to your post, we are not mind-readers" but doesn't bother to specify what information.

Also – every mod should consider that some questions can be unclear to them, specifically, but completely fine to people who have already had experience with the topic or technology that is being asked about. This doesn't mean the questions shouldn't be clarified, but it also doesn't mean those questions are un-answerable as-is.

There are also other kinds. I've seen a few questions insta-closed as shopping recommendations, which would make sense except they're literally asking what the help page told them to ask to avoid the question being closed as a shopping recommendation. Why? What's the point of having those suggestions in the rules if users get punished for following them?


As for comments... comments are just bad. I see bad answers being posted as comments (where they cannot be downvoted), I see useful comments get wiped without a trace ("you should have edited it into the answer" well sure but they cannot be recovered after the fact), but most importantly I've seen incredibly rude comments stay put even after they have been flagged. I swear some of them were almost word-for-word taken from the "Which comments to flag as rude/abusive" instructions, but they have the mod diamond so of course they're immune to flags. It's a bit disheartening to see that.

  • The closure of the question IS a request for the author to clarify the question. Questions that can be answered are not closed. Questions being closed is not a negative event. You can also flag commentary submitted by a moderator – Ramhound Jan 15 at 17:44
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    @Ramhound The problem is that closing your question feels like a negative event unless you know how the site works. Stack Exchange is pretty unique and new users don't understand that closing a question is reversible and possibly temporary in principle. They're used to forums, where closing a thread ends it ultimately. I've been eager to VTC clearly salvageable question, but some points posted here make me rethink this. Maybe we should give users more time to improve the Q before discouraging them by VTC? – gronostaj Jan 16 at 17:58
  • I cannot prevent or help a new user mistakenly feel it’s a negative event. So I don’t bother, in my experience the only way to get an actual edit to the question, is to vote to close the question so hopefully eventually the question can be modified so it can be actually answered. I have seen far to many users push back to editing their question, and I am at a point, where I don’t have the energy to be discouraged by those instances – Ramhound Jan 16 at 19:13
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    @Ramhound: If the users consistently perceive it as a "negative event", that literally makes it a negative event. You're trying to rationalize it because you've grown used to the site working this way – this is not the first forum I've been in where the old-timers think it's gotta be the newcomers that are wrong – but the fact is, even the culturally accepted thing to do could still be the wrong thing to do. – user1686 Jan 17 at 13:28
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    @user1686 We are not a forum. I cannot help the incorrect perception of a question being closed. I can only reiterate the fact it’s not a negative event. It’s an opportunity to clarify the question and get an answer to your question. I am not going to sit by and be told, that I am being rude, by voting to close unclear questions. Being told I am being unfriendly or unwelcoming for closing a question isn’t exactly fun. – Ramhound Jan 17 at 15:40
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    @Ramhound This joke. Sure, we can frame closing a question as an opportunity and that's a valid way to look at it. But simultaneously it's an ultimatum: either you fix your question or you don't get any answer. And I'm afraid due to human nature rather than "I can't get an answer because my question is bad", users will think "I can't get an answer because they've closed my question". It's a systemic problem and I'm kind of questioning one of SE's fundamental principles here, but does the community actually benefit from closing as unclear? – gronostaj Jan 18 at 9:39
  • It’s not up to use to fix that problem. It’s up to the SE developers to give us a better solution. I am not rude or unfriendly for closing a question that doesn’t have the necessary information to answer it. I am going to raise my hand, and say “no that isn’t correct”, when it happens. I will also say that we need more tools to handle questions that can be improved but often are never improved. – Ramhound Jan 18 at 16:06
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    Closing a question simply is hostile. Why? Because it is truly hard to get a question re-opened. 12 out of 28 questions I cast reopen votes on remain closed. – Daniel B Jan 19 at 16:55
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    Admitting addiction is the first step to recovery. You sure have spent ALOT of time here. – Tim_Stewart Jan 19 at 23:22
2

The general pattern: SU has a problem with newbie biting.

All the issues you mentioned are not specific to newbies. I've been asking ~500 questions over 9 years on SU and there is a clear pattern of negativity around here. Negativity deters positive users from sticking around, while negative users remain, so that's the vicious cycle. Being more accountable for VTC/downvotes/unkind comments could be one solution, but obviously the clique of negative users always militate for the right to VTC/downvote/comment whatever they want.

E.g. look at https://superuser.com/users?tab=Voters&filter=all and you'll see that the top 2 most active voters have many more downvotes than upvotes (the #1 most active voter has almost 10 times more downvotes than upvotes!). Doesn't sound that positive to me.

  • 5
    I agree 100%. I don't think this is just on SU though (although in my experience it's a lot worse here compared to anywhere else). This applies to a huge amount of the whole network, and instead of addressing it, they just click 'downvote' on any sort of question/answer like this. – pigeonburger Jan 8 at 7:39
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    How can I see user's upvote/downvote distribution on that page? – gronostaj Jan 8 at 18:15
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    @gronostaj go to the user profile, in activity. BTW, these include votes on deleted posts. – Braiam Jan 9 at 0:03
  • No Franck, it's exactly the same. If I downvote your post and you delete it, it would be still counted. – Braiam Jan 9 at 0:05
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    The statistics displayed on that page doesn’t take into account deleted contributions. So in my eyes the ratio of upvotes to downvotes is garbage, since the majority of the contributions I downvote, actually get deleted. I upvote high quality contributions plenty. – Ramhound Jan 10 at 18:08
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    Upvote/downvote ratios for users with at least 10k rep and 100 total votes. – gronostaj Jan 11 at 10:06
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    Improved query with % shares (eg. how much a user contributes to all up/downvotes in the list) – gronostaj Jan 11 at 10:21
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    @gronostaj thanks for sharing, very interesting! Rambound's upvote:downvote ratio is the lowest. – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 11 at 17:24
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    @FranckDernoncourt - I routinely downvote commentary submitted as an answer. I would estimate about 75% of the daily reviews I perform is commentary submitted as an answer. – Ramhound Jan 11 at 18:37
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    I'm surprised this answer has a net positive score. And I upvoted it. :) And speaking of the active voters... :) Also +1 @pigeonburger . – ispiro Jan 11 at 22:54
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    Why should any user's "many more downvotes than upvotes" or the ratio be an issue? If @Ramhound additionally upvoted 50k good posts, would it make his downvotes more acceptable? Does a newbie whose post was downvoted care how many other people's posts are upvoted? If you think some users vote down too much, say exactly this. But if they review often and flag for deletion, it's natural they see more bad posts than the rest of us. It may be some users are biased in thinking the average quality of a post is relatively high, because really bad posts are removed thanks to users like Ramhound. – Kamil Maciorowski Jan 13 at 8:30
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    Nobody every complains about the user who only upvotes contributions, I have even seen spam upvoted, my point is the official stance is that upvoting and downvoting are equally important. If you want to say I should explain all my votes more often, then I won’t object to that criticism, but to say anything about my ratio is ridiculous since the raw statistics are flawed. – Ramhound Jan 13 at 14:03
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    I agree that this ratio is an actively unhelpful stat. What's being downvoted and how are hugely important. By stats alone, @Ramhound could just as easily be an absolute angel, delivering patient feedback and attempting to coach every one of those into something valuable. Conversely someone with a positive ratio could be vindictively targeting specific users. – John Neuhaus Jan 13 at 20:05
0

People do come here at the ends of their ropes, meaning they don't know where else to go. Often in that many words - and yet we nuke their questions with the "clarity" reason because they "didn't show research effort".

IMHO it's OK to ask a user to do more research or update the question in a comment - without downvoting the question. This is what I prefer to do.

Closing a question is a hostile action regardless of intention

I think the more popular Stack Exchange sites should have more than 5 votes needed to close a question. Stack Overflow probably should be at 10.

Let's consider the case of a random Google user who encountered a useful answer here. They find a well-written question, a solution that completely solves their problem. What will their first instinct be? Thank the person who made it!

I wish there was a socially-acceptable kind way of really getting people to understand that a "thank you" isn't necessary. Upvote=thanks.

I think it's right to suppress this and don't agree that it's harmful.

What makes Stack Exchange great is a laser focus on it being a Q&A site.

People need to understand it's a Q&A site and if you are not Q'ing or A'ing, use the chat. This is not a forum. This is not us trying to be mean, this is us just trying to develop and maintain a good repository of knowledge. I want to add this focus is what makes this a good place for answers and doesn't degrade into meme-drivel like other sites.

When I search for answers on Google I want answers, not conversation. This isn't a place for chit chat. This isn't a social network. Go to a forum, Facebook, Twitter, whatever else for that. Stack Exchange has a chat facility, if you want to chat, use the chat.

As an aside, IMHO the top-level Stack Exchange Meta is real bad about blurring the lines between Q&A and chat and I think it harms the site overall.

This being said, I will not bite a new user's head off who is doing this accidentally. I'll tell them in a comment what they are doing wrong in a kind manner and ask them to delete their comment.

  • 1
    >I think it's right to suppress this and don't agree that it's harmful. From a noise factor, absolutely. In that a day 1 user isn't allowed to express thanks the right way? That's kinda messed up. What would be the downside of setting the "upvote" privilege at 1? – Karu Jan 8 at 18:23
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    I like the overall idea of making people contribute, even if just a little bit, before having any privileges here. It counters some of the reflexive groupthink voting that happens on other sites and also prevents people from making multiple accounts just to downvote things. – LawrenceC Jan 8 at 18:32
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    The fact that downvoting eats your own rep would do plenty to curb that without the arbitrary restriction. – Karu Jan 8 at 18:33
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    @Karu With no contribution required to upvote it would be trivial to create sockpuppets to build your own rep dishonestly. – gronostaj Jan 9 at 12:16
  • @Karu - Downvoting an answer already costs reputation. If you want downvoted to cost reputation, well they got rid of that, a decade ago for a very good read. Unless you plan on answering a question you don’t need the ability to submit a comment. “Thank You” commentary is noise and automatically deleted when flagged and you can always comment on your own question. There isn’t any way to edit commentary, into an acceptable answer, when it’s incorrectly submitted as an answer. So any commentary to that answer isn’t productive. – Ramhound Jan 9 at 22:49
  • search for answers on Google I want answers – MrSparkly Jan 11 at 1:11
-5

If you're in doubt about what OP is talking, go to Quora and search for "Stack exchange". You'll discover tons of people who moved over to Quora, because of the rampant hostility on "Stack Exchange"-type forums (instant closing of questions etc). On Quora, you'll find questions phrased exactly like OP's "Why is Stack Exchange so hostile?"

As far as reasons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment. Give people unchecked authority, and 95% quickly degenerate into prison guards. There's nothing in Stack Exchange's mechanism that prevents hostility / abuse from "high-scorers"

  • 1
    That's not strictly accurate. Moderators are community-elected, and from what I've seen, they tend to be models of how everyone should strive to interact on a Stack* site. – Karu Jan 8 at 18:21
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    +1 I often think about Stanford prison experiment when on SE. – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 8 at 23:51
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    Quora is absolute trash. They require you to create an account and allow users to pay for answers. The minute SE turns into Quora is the day I leave. The only questions with answers on Quora are questions about SE that should tell you something. – Ramhound Jan 9 at 22:43
  • Then why are you spouting off your opinion here and not on Quora? – Ian Kemp Jan 10 at 19:41
  • @IanKemp - Why would I use Quora if it's absolute trash? – Ramhound Jan 10 at 23:56
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    @Ian Kemp Because this question was asked here, not on Quora. Quora was given as evidence of people leaving Stack Exchange in droves. I am sharing an opinion not "spouting" one. For a good example of hostility discussed here, look in the mirror. – MrSparkly Jan 11 at 0:54
  • That's not true, @MrSparkly. When there's a mod election, anyone with 150 points on the site can vote. Quite frankly, the mods are above reproach from what I've seen. Whenever I see someone being obnoxiously rude in review, it's someone with a ton of rep but no mod diamond. – Karu Jan 11 at 1:00
  • @>"anyone with 150 points on the site can vote" Who "can" vote in an election, and who ACTUALLY votes (which is what I said) are two separate things. Voters are mostly people devoted to sites like this. In the case of the bullies, the "devotion" comes from the "kick" they get from abuse. – MrSparkly Jan 11 at 1:31
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    @MrSparkly There tend to be hundreds-to-thousands of votes on a moderator election, and as I've said, I have yet to see any moderator conduct (at least on this site) that's even somewhat objectionable. I agree with you that the atmosphere, especially for someone who's not a tech expert, sucks, but the best way to help that is to contribute to the site and be the change you wish to see. One rude comment is enough to turn someone off forever, one kind comment can do the opposite. Let's drown out the rude. – Karu Jan 11 at 1:34
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  • For comparison purposes, a relatively recent Reddit thread. SE's unfriendliness has reached meme status. – Karu Jan 13 at 6:23
  • I can't remember when it hadn't reached meme status. On one hand SO (and SE's) unapproachability is something people complain about. On the other, some aspects of it (like the strict quality control, and the non-social element of it), that actually make it useful get people the wrong way. – Journeyman Geek Jan 13 at 7:50
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    @Karu popularity hurts, just like Reddit asking why Quora users are rude and Quora asking why Reddit users are rude... – Andrew T. Jan 14 at 13:33

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