What should we do about hectoring?
A flurry of hectoring comments has appeared both on the main ELU site and also here on ELU’s meta. I seek clarification on the following questions three:
- What is the SE policy — and in particular, our own moderators’ collective position — on hectoring?
- How should normal users respond to hectoring?
- At what point does hectoring merit moderatorial intervention befitting any other persistent troll?
Please understand that I am not referring to long comment chains in which many different posters keep going back and forth as though this were a conversation in some forum or chatroom. For those cases, an obvious solution exists: move the comment chain to a chat room where it belonged in the first place.
Rather, I am talking about what to do when some user acts as though it were their God-given right and point of personal privilege to hector and harangue every user in sight about anything even vaguely tangential to their posting.
This not only creates unbalanced comment chains, it makes it feel like specific posters are being picked on by a bully who just won’t move on. Whether one calls this anti-social behavior targeting, bothering, badgering, haranguing, pestering, or hectoring, it still smells as foul.
- 32 comments from the same poster.
- 26 comments from the same poster.
- 20 comments form the same poster.
Notice how unbalanced those all are. Further examples are easily demonstrated.
However, sheer numbers aren’t the main problem. Rather, it is the hectoring tone and tenor of these insistent comments. They are prickly demands for personal responses as though the persistent hectorer were somehow entitled to such. But no such entitlement exists on any SE site, whether ELU or elsewhere.
It’s like coming into a chat room and intentionally pinging everybody you find there, trying to pry an answer from each and every one of them by pestering them until they give in. This is a breach of etiquette and of common sense.
Now and then — and more often of late — one finds comments on the main site which have the chutzpah to “demand” a reason for a down vote or a close vote. Some of these questions I can understand, but many others are at best borderline rude. No one “deserves” anything, and to keep forever pushing and poking for an answer is no longer commentary: this is abuse.
New users coming to this side are at risk for believing that abusive behavior is tolerated here. Repeatedly aggressive behavior comes off as rude, and it makes this look like an unfriendly place. And that’s just the new visitors. The worst thing is that it makes the users targeted by this hectoring uncomfortable: just read their responses, especially their valedictory ones.
At best, this is non-constructive hectoring picking on individual users, singling them out with unrelenting demands for undeserved explanations. This makes those singled-out users feel bad.
At worst, it is trolling whose only intent is to bully individual users into pointless argument and debate. Like any other troll behavior, i’s a waste. It seeks to unjustly bully every possible user to justify each and every possible nuanced reason behind each and every action that user has taken or failed to take.
As can be read in the final comments from not a few users who have been picked on in this way, they have had enough of it. This unrelenting and irrepentant hectoring creates a negative environment that detracts from the site. It draws us down and makes us look bad; in some cases, it may even drive others away.
I would like to know what the policy is regarding this type of behavior so that appropriate action can be taken and hapless users not driven away.
What should we as regular users do with these hectoring comments?
- Should we just stop answering the hectoring bully?
- Should we flag the entire hectoring comment chain as a candidate for deletion?
- Should we flag individual hectoring comments as non-constructive?
- Something else?
- All of the above?
What should our moderator team do with these hectoring comments and with the hectorers themselves?
- Delete their individual hectoring comments.
- Delete the entire chain, including the hectoring comments and the few responses alike.
- Move the chain of hectoring commentary to a chat room.
- Notify the user that hectoring other users is not constructive and not allowed.
- Monitor the hectorers once notice has been given.
- Other possible actions not necessarily suitable for general discussion, up to and including suspending the hectorers for unwillingness to comply with moderator instruction duly delivered.
Those are just a few possibilities. Other constructive suggestions for how this community might usefully deal with this sort of abusive hectoring are welcome.
1. See Wiktionary’s entry on hector, both noun and verb, for more about this classic term.