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Etiquette for posting comments

+7
−0

This question featured a quite heated discussion in the comments which led to some of them being removed. This action was discussed here and I have realized that our community lacks a guide about posting comments.

I would like for us to build together a list of topics we can include and avoid respectively, in the comments. These lists should stem from our Code of Conduct.

Can include

  • requesting clarifications for the author. Examples: "what was the output of line X?", "can you include the stack trace?", "can you provide a reference for the second paragraph?"
  • constructive criticism. Example: "why is foo() called twice?"
  • +1 or thank you notes, if they also provide a little bit of information. Example: +1. This also worked with version X of the framework Y.

Should be avoided

  • +1 or -1 with no explanation
  • snarky comments. Example: "Codidact is not your personal assistant"
  • references to overall author activity in the community. If you feel a user's activity is an issue, please use flagging instead of comments.
  • providing full answers in the comments (they should be added as answers)
  • secondary discussions or debates on controversial points (please ask a question on meta).

SO loosely used as a reference

Please provide your suggestions about what is OK and not OK to include in the comments.

Once we have reached a fairly stable answer for this, I will include it in the help topics and use it as a reference for moderation.

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2 comments

Thank you for starting this discussion. We really want each community to be free to develop its own norms (within the bounds of network policies of course). It's hard for moderators to do their jobs absent that community consensus, which necessarily isn't ready on day 1. Monica Cellio‭ 14 days ago

4 answers

+4
−0

Proposal:

Can Include

  • Helpful feedback

I'd refrain from restricting the topic of feedback, because there are many possible topics:

  • Clarifying the question
  • Explaining why OP would be better served by asking a different question
  • Explaining how OP could have found a solution himself
  • Explaining why the question is in violation of site rules (the canned close reasons are too broad to achieve this)
  • Explaining other reasons why the question is poorly received

I think all of these add value and should be permitted.

In particular, our goal should not be restricted to improving this question so we can write answers for it, but to help OP in becoming a better software engineer. If they are harming themselves by using inappropriate tools, technologies, or approaches, we should speak up.

The name of this website, Codidact, means:

Learning (and teaching) together. “Co”, together (like in “collaborate”), and “didact” from “didactic”, teaching.

Teaching sometimes requires correcting mistakes.

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1 comment

Regarding close reasons, moderators can customize those -- feel free to raise separately so the community can discuss what y'all want. Monica Cellio‭ 14 days ago

+3
−0

Should be avoided

  • secondary discussions or debates on controversial points (please ask a question on meta).

Just when is a discussion secondary? I think r~~ used the term "digressive", which I find to convey the intent better.

I get that we don't want to derail comment threads with lengthy tangential debates, in particular while threaded comments don't exist yet. But a thread is only derailed if the discussion is lengthy, so I think we should write that into the rule.

Also, digressive discussions might also be about technical points.

I therefore propose:

  • lengthy digressive discussions (should be moved to a separate question)
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0 comments

+5
−1

Regarding "snark" - it is very hard and subjective to define. Our overall code of conduct says "be nice", but where do you draw the line. On SO, general gruff attitude tends to be treated very differently from moderator to moderator. That's obviously far from ideal.

We would have to be smarter about this than SO was. During the so-called "welcome wagon" they tried to make a push against such comments, but that's just addressing part of the problem. The first person who was rude is usually the one posting a raw copy/paste of their homework assignment and expecting unpaid volunteers to do it for them. That's incredibly rude.

If we'd then decide to always take the side of the rude homework dumper, like SO did by only remove the rude responses to an even ruder question, people get upset. The wrong people too, because the homework dumpers are rarely ever interested in becoming long-term contributors and community members.

So if we want a zero tolerance against "snark", we must have a similar zero tolerance against homework dumps. Because they will come here sooner or later. It's not enough to instantly remove the homework dump question, it should also be accompanied by 1 week ban from the site, as a suitable first warning against such rude behavior.

Similarly, we must not make the same mistake as SO taking some poorly-considered, naively idealistic stance such as "there are no stupid questions". 10 years of SO experience rather shows that "there are some questions that aren't stupid". The majority of the questions posted there are very bad and should just get deleted.

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5 comments

Yes, I agree that snark is very hard to define. Also, agree that SO policy of being way too welcoming is not beneficial for the advanced users (e.g. in the last two years, I could not get any serious question being answered unless I placed a bounty). Alexei‭ 14 days ago

However, I think that we could minimize conflict by replacing some comments with downvoting (e.g. for no research or effort) or flagging (e.g. for seriously wrong content such as homework dumps). I do not see how endless debates in comments help with removing bad content. Alexei‭ 14 days ago

@Alexei: Feedback can help people write better content in the future. meriton‭ 14 days ago

Also, the fact that some members actually answer do-my-work-for-free questions (usually, I guess, to earn points) encourages more of them. Perhaps we should have earned points awarded by answering a question regarded as task dump by the community taken back. Quasímodo‭ 14 days ago

My own experience in online communities is that the snarkier I'm feeling, the more careful I need to be to review what I'm writing to ask myself "how will this be received by someone who's not in my head?". Usually the same goal can be accomplished more effectively with other words; the snark can make the actual message harder to see and receive. Monica Cellio‭ 14 days ago

+0
−0

Before posting this on the help pages, I will compile the feedback in a separate answer.

Generally speaking, comments should be helpful feedback and the following are not exhaustive lists.

Can include

  • asking for question clarification. Examples: "what was the output of line X?", "can you include the stack trace?", "can you provide a reference for the second paragraph?"
  • explaining why a different question might actually be what the poster is looking for
  • explaining how the poster can find a solution (e.g. what search terms to try)
  • explaining why the question is in violation of site rules
  • explaining other reasons why the question is poorly received (receiving downvotes or got closed) and what to do to improve it
  • +1 or thank you notes, if they also provide a little bit of information. Example: +1. This also worked with version X of the framework Y.

Should be avoided

  • lengthy digressive discussions (should be moved to a separate question)
  • +1 or -1 with no explanation
  • snarky comments. Example: "Codidact is not your personal assistant". Such comments can be easily replaced with clearer ones. Example: "Have you searched for X?". If the question shows no effort or it is very poor, you can downvote or flag for closure.
  • references to overall author activity in the community. If you feel a user's activity is an issue, please use flagging instead of comments.
  • providing full answers in the comments (they should be added as answers)
  • lengthy digressive discussions (should be moved to a separate question)
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