1

Recently a number of people have felt the site has declined either in quantity, quality or both. In some ways I agree. However, I see this as a feature not a bug. A feature that can be addressed and fixed.

For a long time I've tried to do just this and am quite honestly happy about the current direction. First some historical questions, all of which appear to have been positively received but none that sparked serious debate, answers, or direction:


We are a community driven site. Because of the recent decline in numbers its resulted in less close votes and this in turn lets more things through. This is a feature, not a problem. Finally, my prayers have been answered -- can I get an amen!? Amen!

Not one of these was really following our Critique Guidelines:

But all are open, all answered, all voted on. Praise Cthulu! Amen!

See when a Critique, a Dupe, and a Tech question walk into a bar and all of them get turned away by other patrons or the bartender.... then the numbers dwindle, people lose interest, the bar gets stale. But as those patrons leave and the votes go un-cast those beautiful misfits -- those critiques, those duplicates, those tech questions are allowed in. New life breathes.

I don't see the current state of the site as bad, I see it as a long overdue rebirth.


Now one thing I do need to address is something Wrzlprmft said in another meta:

Same goes for community consensus on what content we accept. Casting close votes or flags that go against this consensus only cause confusion, dispute, and clog the queues.

I very much disagree with this. I've not once voted based on community consensus. Voting is the community consensus. And I wouldn't want anyone else to vote based on some arbitrary guidelines either. But what I do ask is that if you often disagree about certain close reasons others are given you bring it up in meta, have discussion, talk about it in inkspot. Don't get frustrated if people don't see eye to eye with you. We don't all have to agree, we do all have to get along. Upvote often, answer well, assume the best intentions, live long and prosper. Amen!

9

I have been considering to share the following thought for a while, and as it ties well in with Ryan’s thoughts, I might as well use this opportunity. Also, I just noticed how the bar analogy helps to explain this.

This site is like a bar, not your private club.

So, what do I mean by this?

  • In any bar, there will be people that you do not like and that’s fine. Just don’t engage them. Don’t go around trying to have them kicked out of the bar, as long as they behave and do not disturb the entire bar.

    I am not making an analogy about users who do not like each other, but that you do not have to like every question. If you do not like critiques, how-tos, font identifications or whatever, that’s fine. But that does not mean everybody else must to dislike them as well. Try to solve the problem by just ignoring these questions.

  • The bar is a public place and everybody can walk in from the street and have a look. It’s not invitation-only for people you like and there is no entrance exam either.

    We are not a community that is exclusive to experts. Not all questions can be highly sophisticated and challenge your expert skills to the maximum.

But aren’t private clubs much cooler?

For a short while, yes, but they are also more difficult to maintain and after a while the members have said everything they can to each other. Here is the thing with bars: Those random people that walk in from the street entertain the regulars. And sometimes those new people bring up a great and interesting topic that makes the entire crowd happy for the rest of the evening. Of course, this only works if the regulars all agree on kicking out the real trouble makers that throw around chairs get kicked out.

If we reduce ourselves to experts, we will run out of topics pretty quickly, because experts rarely have a question (otherwise they wouldn’t be experts). Private beta is long over. If we could amass a gargantuan crowd of experts, this might work, but chances are that we can’t. Inviting non-expert questions has two advantages: They keep the regulars entertained and due to their sheer mass they come up with more nice questions than the experts. Now, not every expert is entertained by the same non-expert questions. Some prefer font-identifications, some like how-tos, others do basic colour theory. And this works very well as long as we can ignore basic questions that we just don’t like, but are no big problem per se.

Yours sincerely,
a bouncer

6

This isn't really my answer, this is a repost of an old answer that I find as relevant today as ever:

  • No rules for rules' sake. We're not lawyers. It should be all about the Q&A.
  • Understand the point of the rules that exist, and apply them based on that:

    • If something is causing actual harm, do something about it (regardless of who posted it), and have some systematic reason so people can judge if you're being fair and consistent.
    • If a question is interesting, works fine, is or could be creating quality content, but maybe, technically could be described as breaking some rule, let it be.
  • Respect the reason this site exists:

    • Design sites without discipline tend to be a mess of "IT CAN'T BE DONE AND YOU'RE WRONG FOR EVEN TRYING", aggression and flame wars between different approaches, rampant pretentiousness, or unhelpful fluffiness with everyone saying they love everything. This site works because it has high standards, and that takes discipline.
    • SE is supposed to be a Q&A network with high quality but minimalist moderation to boost the quality of the Q&A. It's not a moderation network with a Q&A mechanic to create things to moderate. We're not so bad for that, but many other sites feel like this at times...

Originally posted by user568458

  • 3
    I think my rule of thumb would be: "If you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything." Mind you, a close vote can be constructive, if it is paired with a comment explaining why and trying to help the OP improve the question. – PieBie Jul 5 at 7:35
3

It seems like we do not disagree so much after all.

Indeed!

I've been laying low on meta since Tim's post and more active in chat, but I would like to contribute a stretch to the bar analogy regarding how we handle review and closing.


As a bar, we have defined some basic rules for ourselves. "Be nice" should be a given.

And, for example, maybe we want to avoid disruption by not allowing in people naked. Ever.

So we make a rule, and when someone shows up naked, we kindly say:

"Please put some clothes on and we'll let you in"

  • Maybe someone walks in wearing Living Coral from head to toe. Some may think it's an eye sore, some may think it's refreshing. But we let them in anyway (because let it go already).
  • Maybe someone walks in with their dog. And some of us are allergic, or have a bad history with dogs, and we're really concerned. Maybe they have to wait by the door, maybe we let them in, but we make a point to discuss it together and try to reach a consensus so we know what to do in the future.
  • Maybe someone walks in and has issues ordering their drink because they speak a different language. We don't tell them to go back home; we ask them questions to help them order.

Now, it's not the moderators' task to review the review queue. But we must all take into account how we are perceived when we close questions left and right.

  • Maybe a handful of regular patrons eventually decide that jeans are a no-no, and start slamming the door to everyone wearing jeans, or maybe they start letting in people naked, then moderators may have to take action.

And maybe we can be a happy bar.

A bar with few rules, and a handful of guidelines. A bar where we make sure the customer leaves satisfied and looks forward to come back. A bar where the fights are short-lived and people wearing all colors are all welcome.

  • 3
    Tips Emilie generously. Thanks bartender :] – Ryan Jul 5 at 17:12
1

Same goes for community consensus on what content we accept. Casting close votes or flags that go against this consensus only cause confusion, dispute, and clog the queues.

I very much disagree with this. I've not once voted based on community consensus. Voting is the community consensus. And I wouldn't want anyone else to vote based on some arbitrary guidelines either. But what I do ask is that if you often disagree about certain close reasons others are given you bring it up in meta, have discussion, talk about it in inkspot. […]

It seems like we do not disagree so much after all. Let me elaborate my statement.

Closing is not a black and white thing, but often subjective. That’s why we vote on it instead of letting experienced users close things as they please. And here the close votes are the community consensus as you say. This applies to the fringes of our current scope (e.g., graphic designer vs. video production, user experience, etc.), specific close reasons (bad vs. good font-identification), or completely unprecedented issues.

But sometimes, it’s better have a community consensus on a broader level than individual questions. For example, if most of us think certain critique questions need to be closed, it is not good to have a discussion about this every single time such a question is asked. This is confusing for the askers and consumes a lot of energy on deciding and debating. In this case, we should go to meta, agree on where to draw the line and then stick to it. Of course there will be always cases where it is not sure on what side of the line they lie and then we are back to the previous paragraph and that’s fine.

But, if it is clear how to apply the community consensus to a question, we should do that. It cannot be that every single critique question, no matter how well it adheres to our requirements, receives a close vote by somebody who just disagrees with our community consensus on critique questions. This wastes community-moderation energy. If this is accompanied by comments, it’s also irritating the askers. Such close votes (and only such ones) are what I am opposing in the quoted passage.

Now, the above describes an extreme case, but it is not so far from what is actually happening on this site: I looked at a strain of twenty unclosed critique questions from the last year and half of them received at least one close vote. Similar things happen to other question types. Fhtagn.


With that being said, a few side notes:

  • It’s been a while since I last read the term tech support on this site. We seem to finally have rid ourselves of that category which was horrible in so many ways. Amen. (PS: I just noted that you use it in your question. Now you jinxed it.)

  • I am open to the idea of being more liberal about critiques. This may be vitalising and after all with Code Review there is an entire site dedicated to such questions, which seems to be working (and can inspire us on how to do this right).

  • And I wouldn't want anyone else to vote based on some arbitrary guidelines either.

    As long as there is a close reason, FAQ, or similar that says something, some people will enact it for its own sake. Thus, if we want to change our site, we also have to change what is written down, even if we just void it.

    Also, if our guidelines are arbitrary or it is not clear enough that they are just guidelines, we should change that.

    Finally, this is why I was so keen on capturing our motivations for closure. Guidelines are good, but if we know the underlying motivations, we can always go to a higher level and notice that something violates the rules but not the spirit of the rules.

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