# Do we need some kind of code of conduct around here?

Setting aside the question of whether any such code could ever be enforced, might this not be a better place if there were some written statement that people could point to, that shows at least what we might aspire to achieve, regarding the civil treatment of fellow human beings?

This comment briefly appeared on a recent post, in which the poster almost certainly unintentionally misstated the abbreviation for a unit:

"public embarrassment is more powerful than a mere correction. You are going to remember everything [sic] seeing what a fool you were a lot more than someone correcting what you think is a minor "whatever"."

Who said it doesn't matter, as much as the fact that the stack exchange system seems to draw an inordinate number of this sort of person. Personally, I don't think it ought to be part of our mission to publicly humiliate or embarrass anyone, even if said humiliation is intended as (apparently?) a well meaning pedagogical device. However the evidence suggests that some think this is a perfectly fine way to proceed. Ergo my question - what kind of people do we aspire to be here?

I do not imagine that the end result of this question could ever be anything more than a brief line or two in the FAQ, to the effect that we should try to "play nice". It may seem like stating the obvious to some, to put "play nice" in the FAQ, and in fact it seems a bit that way to me, even. However, people can become overly obsessed with technical one-upmanship and rep points, and lose sight of the obvious. I only raise the question thinking that perhaps it would do this community some good to reflect on the basic human interaction component of this forum once in a while.

• the more I think about it, the more that attitude looks like elitism. It may be defended nominally as a kind of teaching device, but look at what it does - it alienates people, and in the long run, excludes them. Sure, "if they're strong enough, they can take it", but doesn't that smack of elitism? Not everyone deserves the blue ribbon, but those that do deserve it should remember that others who are making the effort to try are at least worthy of respect, and I, for one, will demand it on their behalf. – JustJeff Mar 12 '12 at 12:16
• there is a play nice part of the faq. I also agree that the comment chain that occurred there was pretty unbelievable. The person missed a shift and did mV instead of MV and it was a gigantic issue. Life is too short to jump down someones throat over that. – Kortuk Mar 12 '12 at 15:39
• For future reference, the comment in question are here (Comments were deleted, above link is for mods only) – Kevin Vermeer Mar 12 '12 at 17:39
• Doesn't this already exist? Rude or offensive posts should be flagged and removed. What's the expected outcome of this question? – endolith Mar 12 '12 at 17:57
• @endolith - mainly just to raise a little awareness. I'd like to see this place remain a more of a community, and prevent a slide into competition. – JustJeff Mar 12 '12 at 23:03
• @Kortuk - when I click the FAQ link you provided, I see the play-nice message; when I click 'faq' in the title-bar area, I don't see it. – JustJeff Mar 12 '12 at 23:51
• @JustJeff Look at the etiquette section – clabacchio Mar 13 '12 at 11:11
• @JustJeff, as clabacchio said, I linked to a specific section of the faq. – Kortuk Mar 13 '12 at 11:17

Personally, I would hope that this goes without saying. There is of course a facility to mark a comment as 'unconstructive, offensive or spam' and this comment was at the very least unconstructive. We need to mark such comments accordingly and although the poster might argue that that this action itself constitutes 'public embarassment', it is entirely justified if it is the opinion of the community.

I have only seen one instance of an offensive post (where a questioner edited his question with rather 'graphic' remarks about the answers he was getting). I marked it for moderator attention and it was deleted pretty quickly. However, there are some community members who occasionally (and arguably, unnecessarily) post comments which are borderline rude. If inexperienced questioners think that they will be slated for their lack of knowledge, they won't come back and we have failed.

• Yes, we often have users being rude, Please just remind them to be civil and flag their comments. There is a level of self policing here. Flags automatically remove the comments after 3 people flag it(+1 more flag for every upvote it receives). – Kortuk Mar 12 '12 at 15:41
• +1. The problem is especially severe when (very) hi-rep users are borderline rude and beyond. If this SE site regularly sounds like club of arrogant know-it-alls, it is bound for failure. Be helpful, nice and bring along some humour, as the guidelines say... – zebonaut Mar 16 '12 at 7:29
• @zebonaut - Totally agree ... and I hear what you're saying. – MikeJ-UK Mar 16 '12 at 11:19

We all have a code of conduct. The Stack Exchange system allows users to flag, vote, edit, and reply to content, so nothing too far outside the norm will last so long as these options are used. The comment in question was a reply to one of my own, and none of them exist anymore, so the system works.

Coming from other long-standing electronics forums, particularly AVRFreaks.com, I am used to seeing quite a bit worse than anything on EE.SE.com. The member in question is an experienced and knowledgeable EE, and no doubt has an even longer and more involved history in forums and mail lists. Know that his comments are not only commonplace, but quite nice compared to with what one would be blasted for similar 'slips' on AVRFreaks or a technical mailing list. This doesn't mean that it's ok, but it does mean we should expect and deal with it sympathetically. I can relate, having to learn the hard way how to behave online when participating in forums/mail lists from the rude and crude to borderline mothering communities -- it takes time and I still find myself rewording and deleting comments.

Also, his original point may have used a rude formulation, but he was right: spelling mistakes can be disastrous in technical writing and should be questioned, corrected/verified, and noted to prevent future mistakes. Hopefully we find the line between discouraging poor writing and maintaining a positive community atmosphere, whatever that means.

• Yeah, I know the controls work, and the mods do a great job, and in the long run we present a fairly civil face. There's a chink in that armor though, the minutes to hours immediately following a post. I think that newbies are particularly vulnerable to getting the wrong idea about us during that time. Notice I didn't even name any names - b/c the issue I'm trying to raise here goes beyond this one instance. – JustJeff Mar 12 '12 at 23:15
• "Know that his comments are not only commonplace, but quite nice compared to with what one would be blasted for similar 'slips' on AVRFreaks or a technical mailing list." ... and I, for one, am glad that we don't have to put up with it here. I hate that kind of environment. – endolith Mar 12 '12 at 23:51
• "... spelling mistakes can be disastrous in technical writing and should be questioned ..." Quite so, but I would make two point here. Firstly the membership of this community consists of a mix of professionals and amateur hobbyists and we shouldn't expect hobbyists to adhere to professional standards. Secondly, posts on this site do not im my opinion constitute technical writing. A formal technical document is drafted, proof-read, spell-checked, grammar corrected and probably peer-reviewed before it is issued. A post on this site is usually typed and the 'post' button clicked ... – MikeJ-UK Mar 16 '12 at 11:22
• ... Personally, I always draft my posts in a text editor first, but that's probably pedantry up with which others will not put (sic) ;) – MikeJ-UK Mar 16 '12 at 11:22
• Thanks for once again mentioning how other communities work. I have stopped using or spending time on other technical online communities, because the style of the conversations there is a big turn-off, at least with 95 % of the threads. Also, poor spelling may be annoying, but do we really want to welcome good English speakers exclusively? The way I see it, English is just the best common denominator as a worldwide language, and instead of nuking poorly written questions and discouraging their authors, we do have the chance to edit them. – zebonaut Mar 17 '12 at 13:11
• @zebonaut, I am glad to hear more people believe in a kinder site. I agree, you need to approach carefully and attempt to be kind. I normally try to grade purely on technical merit and deal with spelling as an unimportant step as anyone can correct that. On that note, Flag things you think are offensive as offensive. The site is designing to automatically remove based on number of flags. It will teach people rude comments cannot stay. It will also notify mods to an issue., – Kortuk Mar 18 '12 at 11:06