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This question already has an answer here:

Note: This post contains questions about the current pro-tempore election. DO NOT ANSWER THIS POST unless you have nominated yourself in the election.!


This are three questions that all regard to handling critique. They represent real situations that occurred on this site:

  1. A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question and closed it (not neccessary unilaterally). You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. The user is responding harsh and calls you a bully/elitist/...? What would you do?

  2. Similiar to 1: A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question before anybody else and closed it. You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. Later a high-rep user posts on meta complaining about you closing it immediately and says this is a violation of the CoC. What would you do?

  3. You try to enforce the site-policy against spam (undisclosed links to own papers). One user had a lot of posts that are in need of deletion/edition. You contact the user privately and inform them that they must always disclose the affiliation. The user does not understand why other people may tell about their own posts and feels bullied and complains publicly about you (on- or off-site). What would you do?

Please read carefully through ALL ANSWERS and comment on them if you have further questions.

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marked as duplicate by Sanchayan Dutta Mar 4 at 16:56

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    $\begingroup$ I've checked a few other sites and none of them appear to close their election questions. As there isn't even really a close reason that fits, I don't feel that closing this question is particularly appropriate $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Nov 5 '18 at 20:16
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Candidate: Blue

A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question and closed it (not necessarily unilaterally). You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. The user is responding harsh and calls you a bully/elitist/...? What would you do?

In general, my comment on the original post should already explain why I have closed it. However, users should always feel free to discuss their line of thinking in case they feel the question has been closed unfairly. In fact, I actively encourage a healthy amount of opposition! Such feedback helps moderators to understand the needs and viewpoints of the larger community. Also, moderators are just like any other human being and they do tend to make mistakes from time to time. It is totally possible that I will close a completely on-topic question by mistake, although that should probably be once in a blue moon.

Now, coming to your question: "The user is responding harsh and calls you a bully/elitist/...? What would you do?". As I always say - disagreeing with a mod is one thing and being outright crude is another. While I will welcome all disagreements, I will not hold back from taking appropriate moderator action if there's any hint of rude or abusive behavior. Oh, and another thing: in case you want to talk to a mod privately about something you may do so by raising the moderator flag - "in need of moderator intervention" along with a custom message. Don't hesitate.

Similiar to 1: A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question before anybody else and closed it. You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. Later a high-rep user posts on meta complaining about you closing it immediately and says this is a violation of the CoC. What would you do?

Good question. I will quote Robert Cartaino's excellent points here:

  1. The Code of Conduct is there to establish a pattern of behavior, not to raise it every time someone disagrees. You might ask how we can improve handling off-topic questions to better help users who are new to the system, but blanket accusations of a mean community gone wrong are not going to be constructive.
  2. Please try not to extrapolate a down-vote or even a close vote as an affront to the entire Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is about treating each other with patience and respect. While you can argue that further explanation of a down-vote can be constructive, it is not a required part of the process.
  3. Users are entitled to their opinion — users are even entitled to be wrong when deciding what does or does not belong on this site. That is why moderation is a community-led activity. Conflating the issues of "be nice" with trying to assert that everyone must agree-always creates an uncomfortable environment where everyone is afraid to disagree or express any type of dissenting opinion — whether it's through a down-vote or a close-vote or a comment — until the whole thing ceases to be functional at all.

"Later a high-rep user posts on meta complaining about you closing it immediately and says this is a violation of the CoC. What would you do?" - I'll direct them to this meta post. Let me make this clear: under almost no circumstance is closing or downvoting a question a violation of the CoC. Such pseudo-arguments have no teeth, as far I am concerned. I am much more likely to listen to the high-rep user if they state the reasons why a certain question closure is/was unjustified.

You try to enforce the site-policy against spam (undisclosed links to own papers). One user had a lot of posts that are in need of deletion/edition. You contact the user privately and inform them that they must always disclose the affiliation. The user does not understand why other people may tell about their own posts and feels bullied and complains publicly about you (on- or off-site). What would you do?

Let's see: not all users are aware of the site policy regarding spam. So first and foremost I'd request them to read the relevant page in the Help Center. Even then, the user is, of course, free to take their complaints to meta. I have no issues with that. In fact, I think hearing a third-party's opinion on meta would help them better realize the policies. Nevertheless, being a moderator, I'll have to uphold the site's standards. If initial gentle reminders don't help, and there's a large amount of spam generated by the same user, I'll probably delete those posts.

I should, however, clarify my stance on this. It's certainly possible that a user occasionally forgets to disclose when they're citing their or their company's products or papers. Also, new users might take some time to get used to this policy. That's OK. People make mistakes. People have their opinions. We can give them some leeway. Such issues will always be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I am not going to lay down a precise set of rules to classify what is spam and what is not spam.

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  • $\begingroup$ A bit late to the election party, my apologies, but I am a bit concerned with you being a moderator and I have a very good reason to be, Look at this thread quantumcomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/1472/…. When I asked this question I knew it was not perfect and I knew edits would have to be made to make it perfect and I was open. While other members tried to help me out to form a better question you aggressively flagged it close. $\endgroup$ – Vikram Palakurthi Nov 5 '18 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ And you commented “Uh, an excellent and enlightening answer to an ill-defined question! I'm afraid the question will be closed down (by the community) though, unless the OP makes it more specific. ;) So if the answer is good why would you flag it to close? You could have just asked to reframe the question, which you did later but after flagging it. Ill-defined question? I guess I mixed up two questions into one and had to reframe it better so that it could live up to the answer written. Well, being a moderator you would have to be gentle apart from being strict. $\endgroup$ – Vikram Palakurthi Nov 5 '18 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ I also see that you seems to be leading in the elections right now and my vote won’t make a difference but I might accept you and vote for you as a moderator if you can convince me that you would be gentle going forward :-) atb $\endgroup$ – Vikram Palakurthi Nov 5 '18 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @VikramPalakurthi If you note the edit history I was one of the first few people to edit your post in order to improve it. Moreover, I was the first user to vote to reopen your question after it got closed. So isn't saying "While other members tried to help me out to form a better question you aggressively flagged it close." a tad unfair? Also, please remember that question closures are not meant to be an attack on you, but rather an opportunity for you to improve your question so that you can get better answers! $\endgroup$ – Sanchayan Dutta Nov 5 '18 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Marking questions to be closed is not a problem and is perfectly fair to do so, but calling them ill-defined is a problem. Plus when you mentioned the answer was so good, wouldn't it be better to correct it instead flagging it and creating a loop of closing and reopening it :-). Yes, you did made some edits after realizing that closing was not appropriate. Again, no issues with you I only wanted to make sure that you reflect all of your previous comments before being elected, that's all, cheers :-) $\endgroup$ – Vikram Palakurthi Nov 5 '18 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ Well there is no such thing as hatred here, I was requesting you to justify why you were a right fit to be elected as a moderator by giving an example of how a moderator shouldn't be when elected. It's always better to take time to pick right moderator instead of hurrying to choose one immediately, all the best. $\endgroup$ – Vikram Palakurthi Nov 5 '18 at 21:56
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Nomination of MEE

  1. A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question and closed it (not neccessary unilaterally). You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. The user is responding harsh and calls you a bully/elitist/...? What would you do?

    In this situation I would try to neutrally explain to the user (again) WHY their post is off-topic, HOW they can fix it and WHERE they might get help otherwise (chat, ...). If the user continues complaining, I would disengage because I think that we should be welcoming to every user but if they don't accept our rules there is nothing we can do.

    If the user continues complaining after me not showing up for a few hours/minutes – possibly also pinging me or other mods about this issue –, I would ask an other mod to look at my decision and to handle the situation, because it is harder to attack multiple people than one. In the worst case we might consider some private messaging, but this would not help to resolve the situation. I think that in this case I would also consider asking the SE team for help, because they have more experience with handling these situations.

  2. Similiar to 1: A new user asked a question that is (slightly) off-topic for this site. You saw this question before anybody else and closed it. You leave a helpful comment directing the user to the place where the question might be answered. Later a high-rep user posts on meta complaining about you closing it immediately and says this is a violation of the CoC. What would you do?

    I would either redirect the user to an appropriate meta post (if there is any) or explain that the CoC exists to maintain a friendly communication between users and not to protect new users (or any users) from moderation actions against their posts. Also the CoC does not break the site rules.

    Maybe I would also suggest that the high-rep user creates a chatroom with the new user so that the high-rep user can help the new user to solve their problem if the high-rep user wants to do this. In this case I would also use my mod-powers to allow the new user to chat if they can't yet due to their too low reputation.

  3. You try to enforce the site-policy against spam (undisclosed links to own papers). One user had a lot of posts that are in need of deletion/edition. You contact the user privately and inform them that they must always disclose the affiliation. The user does not understand why other people may tell about their own posts and feels bullied and complains publicly about you (on- or off-site). What would you do?

    In this case I would inform the users HOW exactly the rules are (redirecting them to the appropriate meta posts), WHY these rules exist and WHAT the user can do to get their posts undeleted.

    The problem is that especially off-site communication can be very problematic and might probably lead to an even more harmful situation. Therefore I would immediately contact SE team and coordinate with them, because they have more experience than me.

In all situations I will also apply the following rule of thumb:

If there is anything that I can no longer control, I will try to get help by other mods or escalate this issue to the CMs

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For the 3, I would try give as much explanations as I can, give suggestions, and find the good balance to solve problems while not penalizing the concerned person (or as less as I can); by also cooperating with other mods or higher when the situation is out of control for myself alone.

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