There is an app for making boilerplate comments on SE. This makes quickly posting identical comments easy, which helps with site maintenance tasks like flagging or suggesting improvements to posts. In principle the same sort of thing can be done with an everyday text editor, but tools like this make the process much more convenient.
For this discussion, my definition of boilerplate is comment found verbatim across multiple posts on ELU, linking to Help or Meta, usually with extra constructive text. I've not seen widespread use of boilerplates on ELU, but I think a few I've seen most do not set a good precedent.
While I see the appeal and utility of having a fast way to respond to common issues, I am also concerned about how using these methods:
- Make the site and community look
- Make the receiver feel
Minor edits are a common thing to want a boilerplate comment for. But if the edit is made, the comment has served its main purpose. The comment can still help show new users what ELU expects from its posters. But keeping it does not seem to be in line with the SE mentality of staying on-topic: The edit was minor, comments are easily deleted, and the post's edit history and summary already show the changes and (ideally) its reasons. But this spent boilerplate may linger on the Q-and-A page, where being on topic is most important, having no bearing at all on the discussion.
The boilerplate comment, to be general, will lack the personal touch that the OP may be offering. Between the few clicks needed to post a boilerplate that's "close enough" and the time it takes to write up a personalized response, which will commenters choose? Will OP even know what to change, without specific examples? What if the boilerplate message is OP's first interaction with anyone on ELU?
Boilerplates will lead to misunderstandings and, if untended, clutter. But some of these issues can be avoided by etiquette or protocol. Below are some questions I would like discussed.
Should there be boilerplate use on ELU? Right now we have awarded 18 Tumbleweed badges and have 45 unanswered questions. SEs are a community effort and ours is pretty active for its size. Does it make sense to be using boilerplates in the first place? If so, what tasks need it the most? (I picture review queues as high on the list.) Should we emphasize hybrid boilerplates, which get the main point across with automated text but write a specific part in case more explanation is needed?
Should there be (loose) limits on boilerplate frequency? Even if they're fitting, is more than one of the same boilerplate on a page too much? Should there be a restriction on how many boilerplates are applied per post? Should they be deleted if they've gone a long time without being addressed? Is using the same boilerplate repeatedly over a short time to demonstrate something is an issue an appropriate use of them?
What is Meta's involvement in boilerplate content? Does a boilerplate (particularly one linking to Meta) give the impression that a user is speaking on behalf of the whole community, its moderators, or the linked poster? If so, should boilerplates indicate when they're made without peer review?
Are some deserving questions exempt from boilerplates? Some I've thought of might be:
- A post with a good score, because the poster has given something of quality.
- If it looks like significant effort has been put into a question, because boilerplates take very little effort.
- A post whose last edit was before something was discovered, discussed, and/or resolved on Meta, because the poster would probably have done it differently now.
These have not been very big issues, but I think (like flagging) it's best if we have general rules about where boilerplates can be used. Should boilerplates also be used only if no other options are sensible?
Who is responsible for cleaning up boilerplates? The commenter can do it most easily. But they may miss when some changes are made. Is it ok to flag as obsolete when a boilerplate's issues are resolved?
Other concerns than those listed here are welcome in this discussion.
I think boilerplates are a good tool. But if they're used poorly they will be making more work rather than less.