I love the English language and would enjoy participating in a forum such as this, if only I could find the one that includes everyone--without the snide comments and the personal attacks that I see here. Shame on you.

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    Questions about the site, as opposed to about English, should be asked on [Meta]. We will move this question there for you. You'll get much more productive and helpful answers if you can include a few examples of what you're talking about. Absent that, nothing will change, assuming what you're seeking is change. – Dan Bron Mar 26 '17 at 3:47
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    You need to provide examples, as long as you do not insult the user/s when citing their comments, then we can all reflect on whether your perception is valid and worthy of consideration. – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 '17 at 8:19
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    Saying that, I'm getting a little tired of newcomers who come and accuse users of being petty, and rude without actually showing any proof. If users have sounded rude or condescending, and I have fallen into that pit myself, there's usually a half-decent reason behind it. – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 '17 at 8:21
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    Possible duplicate of I am worried about being off-topic – Mari-Lou A Mar 26 '17 at 8:23
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    The question needs examples. – aparente001 Mar 26 '17 at 23:15

It's worth bearing in mind that Stack Overflow sites aren't meant to be "forums" or "chat sites" (people are supposed to come here to ask and/or answer questions, not for the social interaction).

As implied by the upvotes for this comment, it's quite possible at least some new visitors here experience "rejection, rudeness" because they're asking basic questions on the wrong site (questions that would be better received on ELL). Perhaps it's the question that's being rejected, not the querent.

As for overt and sustained hostility between established users (or towards those newcomers who've correctly identified this as the right site for their question), all I can say is I don't see much of it.

Of course, the written word is far inferior to face-to-face interaction in terms of how easy it is to know how your contribution to a discourse is being perceived at the receiving end. And if people perceive their primary purpose here to be giving or getting information, they might not always pay as much attention to the limited feedback they do get as if they were here to make and interact with friends. Get over it.

  • This is thoughtful, and I uprooted it. The process is designed to be collaborative and therefore a form of social interaction. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 1:37
  • This needs a full-blown essay. VERY briefly, there are some questions which naturally lead to simple best answers (questions about rare words, for example). There are other questions for which the best answers are a form of discussion. Also, there are different "best" answers, depending on who is asking, and on their need. Another major systemic flaw is that questioners arrive and find themselves in the middle of a discussion of a quality that ranges from appalling to excellent, and are treated immediately as participants in the system, not simple querents. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 1:54
  • So there is a mess here, though an intriguing one. But I think that there are self-defeating design faults in the system that, if not addressed, are going to frustrate the best efforts of the many well-intentioned and very able people I have come across here. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 1:55
  • uprooted > UPVOTED (I left my glasses somewhere) – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 1:56
  • Afterthought: Your final words "Get over it" are highly personal, which is at odds with the main point you are making. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 2:40
  • With my inadvertent "uprooted" I actually did just that to your answer. This site is based on collaboration and social interaction. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 2:57
  • Now for a kinder version of the feedback. I sense the care you put into your answer, see something in it that is worthy of my own time and consideration, and want to make sure that I avoid discouraging you, even if I disagree with you. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 2:58
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    I visit ELU on a regular basis, and there are certainly some people (whom I obviously won't name) who are rude and aggressive in tone, and not just to newcomers. – AleksandrH Mar 27 '17 at 12:51
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    @Kevin Mark: Your reaction to my (admittedly, somewhat tongue-in-cheek! :) Get over it simply underlines the substantive point of my final paragraph. Perhaps I should have enclosed it in brackets ending with a smiley, as per this comment! – FumbleFingers Mar 27 '17 at 13:43
  • Well put. I do feel though that the design of the system is setting people up for frustration. In the same vein, I also feel that the whole issue of "grammar" and how ELU approaches it needs a lot more definition. I'm chewing on all this... Thanks for your patience and goodwill. – Kevin Mark Mar 27 '17 at 14:15
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    @FumbleFingers "I don't see much of it." That might be because it's promptly deleted. On my first and only question I got some horrible, unfounded accusations thrown at me with names and all from a long standing, established user. Shortly after I replied, it was all deleted without anyone explaining to me why I got the abuse, what was done about it or any form of apology. Regardless of how 'social' the site is supposed to be, it might at least be safe from instant hostility conveniently covered to suit the hostile party. – Keith Mar 27 '17 at 22:35
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    @FumbleFingers Especially since multiple comments on this question point out the need for examples, one from the user who went mad at me. How can this topic be seriously debated when evidence is deleted? – Keith Mar 27 '17 at 22:38
  • @Keith - I think I may have a partial explanation (although I don't remember your question). I have had the experience that I've seen a user slamming a new participant, and then I've raised a flag. I don't understand why yet, but as far as I can tell, when the moderators decide they agree with the flag I've raised, they usually just quietly delete the offensive post or comment, without giving the participant who behaved badly any direct feedback. Then the offending participant has a hard time learning from the mistake -- s/he might not even realize there was a comment removal! – aparente001 Mar 28 '17 at 0:47
  • @aparente001 Then hopefully this question helps the moderators think about an altering that system, unless they like the idea of new users being hazed out for appearing less intelligent or committed. – Keith Mar 28 '17 at 10:52
  • Dan Bron's comment was deleted with the answer from where it was posted. I wanted to copy and paste it underneath the OP's question or in a cw answer, but the page is locked. I'll post Dan's comment here so visitors can see what you are referring to. – Mari-Lou A Mar 30 '17 at 7:59

@poetlaureate My advice is to give the site a little more time. You will need patience and perseverance to learn how to enjoy participating here. One of the traps that people can fall into is not taking time to really take in what someone is saying, which then leads to an unhelpful and judgmental response. Another trap is to react emotionally, unproductively or self-righteously to something that strikes you as inappropriate or sloppy. There is plenty here that does not deserve careful attention and criticism. Save your energy and give your time to something that looks as though it will help you to spend time on it. It may take a little time to learn to spot the opportunities.

I've been here for just under two weeks. This is my first experience of participating in a collaborative online project. It is fascinating to see how the site functions and to have a chance to work with other people in a process of striving to reach the best possible answer to a question in an area of mutual interest — in this case the English language.

What may be slightly lacking here is an awareness that the process of pursuing excellence in the form of the "best answer" itself needs to be excellent. A mediocre process can hardly lead to an excellent result. So we need to strive for a mutual understanding of an excellent process. Some thoughts on this follow.

Built into the project is an awareness that collaboration can help us to reach excellence. This means that we need to allow ourselves to be (publicly) corrected, and that it is responsible to correct others. However, we are human beings, and all of us need encouragement and respect for the efforts we have made. The current culture of the site may be slightly biased towards linguistic and scholarly excellence at the expense of the human processes we are engaged in as we pursue that goal.

I have been very struck by how much people's feelings and attitudes can be expressed and sensed in the comments, up and down voting and so on. This is real communication!

While it is exciting to me to improve myself and to "meet" people here whom I like and respect, I also sense the potential for participants — as in other areas of life — to voice themselves self-righteously and to take the notion of status too seriously.

I find myself attracted to those voices that are seriously listening (here reading), but at the same time not taking themselves too seriously. I am not attracted to anything that smacks a little too much of eagerness to police the site or of self-righteousness. The most articulate and intelligent of us may be among the most susceptible to these weaknesses, I suspect. We might enjoy ourselves much more if we were to appreciate that excellence in the sense of being "right" needs to be tempered by excellence of a different kind.

In the end, there is never going to be a "best answer" for many of the questions. The point is to enjoy the process of exploring questions intelligently in order to find answers that are as helpful as they possibly can be at a given point in time. Let's try also to be as helpful to each other as possible in this process.

Being serious about what we are doing can be fun. If it doesn't feel fun to me at a given moment, then I am in need of helpful feedback — from myself or from some person out there who finds it fun to be helpful. My experience on this site has been giving me the sense that the goal of making sure that we are able to receive and give feedback in a healthy way may ultimately be more important, interesting, and difficult than the goal of reaching the best answer.

Sorry there are no references here! My personal feeling is that they would not be helpful in answering this particular question. Or perhaps I need to be told by someone from above that this is not acceptable...

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    Wow, this is maybe one of the best expressions of these sentiments I have seen on these sites, in the 3 or so years I've been around. Welcome Kevin, glad to have you. And I'll be first to throw up my hand and say I may be too eager to police the site, but for the most part my policing is restricted to enforcing norms that should be expected of any rational adult who respects others, and their time. I mostly get cold and supercilious at [what I perceive to be] laziness. Outside that, I close a lot of posts, but without rancor: I just want to fast answers don't encourage off-topic questions. – Dan Bron Mar 26 '17 at 17:00
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    Also I don't think you need references for Meta answers of this type. The idea here is honest, personal feedback within the community. I'd only expect references on posts citing policy or some SE authority. – Dan Bron Mar 26 '17 at 17:01
  • @Dan Bron Thanks for the encouragement! This has been an interesting experience, and I am intrigued by how much the site has caught my interest. – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 17:05
  • @Dan Bron I noticed your very kind comment to the "You're right" question. That sets a very good example, I feel. – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 17:28
  • I don't remember which question that is, but ok glad I got it right, at least once :) – Dan Bron Mar 26 '17 at 17:40
  • I should have said it was an answer that you commented on, by VanesaBrown – Kevin Mark Mar 26 '17 at 17:46

It took me a while to figure this out, but here's what I figured out:

All the participants on the site share the responsibility for politeness, and the way to exercise that responsibility is by flagging and writing comments. (The moderators play a special role by making decisions about the flags.)

I believe you can make flags as soon as you have 15 reputation points. It's hard to say much of anything specific without examples. Examples can be provided in a variety of ways:

  • a link
  • text copied from a problematic comment
  • a screenshot taken of a problematic comment, in context
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    @Mari-LouA - Ah, we aren't in Kansas any more. // I'm pretty sure I was still in ELU when I voted to close, wrote a comment about Meta being more appropriate, and wrote my answer. But maybe I opened the tab earlier, didn't refresh, and then my answer was somehow recorded -- I'm not sure. Maybe it was gray but I didn't notice. The difference is a little subtle. – aparente001 Mar 26 '17 at 23:13
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    In my experience rude and hostile comments are deleted without warning, explanation or apology soon after the receiving party replies. Funny, since the hostile user is also on this question asking for examples, as if evidence of their hostility to newcomers hasn't been magically erased! – Keith Mar 27 '17 at 23:39
  • @Keith - I hope it wasn't me who said something hostile. – aparente001 Mar 28 '17 at 0:48
  • No of course not, It's just frustrating me that people keep suggesting the need for examples when they're deleted (probably by the perpetrators). – Keith Mar 28 '17 at 10:47
  • I've met 2 rude members but both were well established users with high reputations, so I assume they give a large proportion of detailed, helpful, and well supported answers. However, doesn't the site want to discourage the hostility towards newcomers and users with less knowledge/experience? I don't think the OP asking this because they're easily offended or posting irrelevant questions but because it's happening where there is no need for it, seemingly to fuel a few egos. – Keith Mar 28 '17 at 10:47
  • @Keith - I added some alternative ways of providing examples. // Please note, the effectiveness of flags varies from one SE site to another. I have 69 helpful flags on ELU and 10 on ELU Meta. This could be a measure of how seriously the moderators here take flags, my developing skill at noticing things that need flagging, and/or the frequency of flag incidents -- I'm not sure! // It took me a while to get the idea of making flags. Now that I know, I work pretty hard at trying to distinguish when a comment is just annoying to me personally, and when it needs a flag. – aparente001 Mar 29 '17 at 1:32

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