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Note: I originally posted this in chat; I've decided to write it here as well as per the advice of apaul34208 and NVZ, to get it more attention.

Hi, all. I'm here to write a message about some recent problems we've had. Specifically, I'm addressing those who participated in How to respond when told to “check your privilege” and My best friend has become increasingly xenophobic towards Muslims. What do I do?.

I had never, in my time on Stack Exchange, been embarrassed to be part of a particular site. But that changed after I spent the past couple of days handling various disputes and flags on those two questions. A mod on another site joked that Interpersonal Skills causes more interpersonal problems than it solves. I'm starting to think he wasn't too far off the mark.

Let me be clear: we're here to answer questions about how to solve interpersonal problems. We are not here to argue about ideologies. Or sling insults at those who disagree with us. Or call people "bigots", "social justice warriors", and all the other pejorative crap I've seen on those threads.

If you find yourself baiting, insulting, demeaning, or otherwise hurting another person to try to prove a point . . . then you're doing it wrong. And let me tell you, I saw a lot of people doing it wrong, representing almost all sides of all of the micro-arguments that sprang up.

We're gonna have divisive questions in the future. I guarantee it. And we all need to have the maturity to deal with them civilly and respectfully, even when talking with people who don't think the same way as us.

People should not be using a site about interpersonal skills if they are incapable of, you know, dealing civilly with an interpersonal situation. We have standards for behavior. Let's live up to them.

This is mainly a public service announcement, because things have gotten out of control on those questions. That said, if people have feedback, general advice, or anything else relevant to say, then I'd be happy to hear it as a comment or an answer. But this meta post is not for arguing about these two particular issues; it's about the fact that for a site about interpersonal skills, we really messed up in these interpersonal situations.

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    I'm sure you are already considering this, but if people were violating the be nice policy, some mod messages, and perhaps some suspensions, would absolutely be in order. – user288 Aug 21 '17 at 19:56
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    @Hamlet Normal moderator actions have/are already being taken; this post is to supplement all of that. – HDE 226868 Aug 21 '17 at 20:03
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    I don't understand why social justice warrior is a pejorative. – gerrit Aug 21 '17 at 22:49
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    @gerrit It, isn't, by itself. In some cases it is also an accolade. It can, however, be used in a negative fashion, and has been on this site already. That is true of many phrases, and such negative, pejorative, language is not proper to use under the SE "Be Nice" policy. – Chindraba Aug 21 '17 at 22:55
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    @HDE226868 I am deeply grateful that you and your colleagues are willing to go through the pain that moderating this site may at times turn out to be. Please keep up the good work! – gerrit Aug 21 '17 at 22:55
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    I totally agree with this post. The main problem is that there are some sites on SE (including this one) where even some diamond users violate the be nice policy and/or abuse their powers to simply prune any comment they don't like in a discussion, leaving the others (often theirs). If some diamond users act like that, it's expectable (even if unfortunate) that also some other users will behave badly. – Andrea Lazzarotto Aug 25 '17 at 20:19
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    The results of those questions showed the site population is politically misweighted and moderation didn't fix the problem. If you want to redeem yourselves delete both questions. – Joshua Sep 9 '17 at 3:01
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I think a huge reason why the check your privilege question went so poorly was that it was a bad question that should be closed.

The question currently reads as:

Essentially, how do you politely respond to a random stranger that tries to 'check your privilege'.

But this is missing a lot of important information. Is the OP trying to politely disagree? Or is the OP trying to understand what the phrase check your privilege means? We can't actually give an answer tailored to the OPs needs without this information. Which is why the question received a lot of answers that were about peoples opinion of the phrase, rather than answers that attempt to solve the OPs actual problem. This is why that question created drama.

If a question is receiving answers that are mostly people trying to debate their personal opinion, then that's a sign that something is wrong with the question.

I see that the check your privilege question has been reopened, which is a mistake. Close it, and get better about closing these sorts of questions quickly in the future. Don't let them spiral out of control.

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I agree with the OP. This site is not the place to enter into discourse about divisive questions and answers. Nor is it the place to enter into discussions about them. In fact, under the Stack Exchange Network's design, purpose, and model, it is not the place to engage in any subject discussion. Comments are for addressing the post by suggesting corrections and improvements, and for meta-type input, not for a discussion thread as in most forum-type environments. Provided the "Be Nice" policy is followed, extended discussions may happen in chat rooms, however, but that's not what this PSA is about.

This site is still in formation, having only been in beta for 8 weeks. As such, many things are still left to work out, and many experiences are yet to be had. How to deal with such issues, as a community, is one of them. Yes, the moderators can, and do, handle these situations. (Many thanks to them, and my condolences to their soon-to-be-lost sanity.) As members of this community, however, there is much we can do to reduce the stress on our team of volunteer moderators. Remaining civil in our behavior, even when challenged, is one habit we can develop.

I'm sure that I am guilty as charged on more than one occasion, even though it is not my intention. I am also on this site because I recognize that my interpersonal skills are less than ideal, and hope to improve them. I can hope that there are others here doing the same thing. Recognizing that my skills need improving, I hope to always be open to correction from others, including, but not limited to, the moderators, when my online activities become unacceptable for our community. I also hope that other users, especially the moderators, will recognized that my goal is personal improvement, not trolling or political posturing, etc.

Finally, as a reply to the closing statement, for a site about interpersonal skills, we really messed up in these interpersonal situations, I have to disagree. We, meaning the community, did not mess up there. Those of us who were party to the problem could be said to have messed up, but the community didn't. Rather, the situations demonstrated the need for this community, and the community has dealt with it, and maybe even some of us learned from it. The unfortunate side-effect is the extra stress on the volunteers who have given of their time and energies to try keeping this community out of the fire.

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    I appreciate some of the kind words herein. I suppose I should explain the final statement. I'd much rather defuse a situation than have to reach and delete stuff when things get heated, and I think normal community members can do that, too. I tried, in a couple cases on those threads, to use words instead of hammers; it wasn't overly successful. – HDE 226868 Aug 23 '17 at 14:46
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When comments are used for off-topic discussion of divisive topics rather than the interpersonal issues in question the whole comment thread should repeatedly (at regular intervals without being allowed to build a 'head of steam') be deleted or moved to chat.

When an answer publishes 'popular misconceptions' about a community in the form of hurtful and discriminatory statements before proceeding to explain 'how to tell Bob these misconceptions are not always true' [I shall not point fingers but you can make up your own minds] the nonsense statements should be edited out or the answer should be deleted at the earliest.

Our 3 moderators have been heroically dealing with all the flags, but might often have legitimate real-world necessities that need their attention, possibly preventing 2 or more of them from being online for a few hours at a given time. So I think this rapidly growing site needs at least 2 more moderators in order to maintain the systems without wearing out those who have generously volunteered their time and efforts for this difficult undertaking.

High reputation members with access to moderator tool privileges are already assisting the moderators in their work. The community can contribute by adhering to the 'be nice policy' and resisting the temptation to engage in off-topic political debates, especially on emotionally volatile and divisive topics.

Summary:

It is time to expand the moderator team and deal ruthlessly with inflammatory answers and off-topic discussions.

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    While I agree with most parts of the answer, SE won't add moderators just like that. Too many cooks ... – NVZ Aug 22 '17 at 13:03
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    @NVZ It is peculiar that this site has unpredictable 'peak hours' of intensive flagging when 3 moderators have been demonstrated to struggle to deal with the work load. 2 of my flags took upto 36 hours to be resolved during this peak flagging. Whereas 3 moderators is probably enough for 'regular hours.' Is it possible for high rep members like apaul and yourself to apply moderator tool privileges during peak hours as and when they occur in the capacity of 'honorary moderators?' – English Student Aug 22 '17 at 13:07
  • I use all my privileges wisely as and when I can. I'm lavish like that. Hopefully others join in the effort. – NVZ Aug 22 '17 at 13:08
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    We are not three mods "struggling". We are three mods, of which two are really busy doing real life stuff this week. Please stop painting us as unable to keep up. If this continues for a month or more, we can talk to the CMs but I don't think we need more mods at this point. – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 14:02
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    I recognize your point @Catija and have removed 'struggling' from my answer. My suggestion for more mods is mainly so that at least 2 of them can be online at any given time, even with legitimate real-world obligations. – English Student Aug 22 '17 at 14:07
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    With the possible exception of SO, no site has that. There's no requirement that flags be handled immediately. Nothing on SE requires an immediate response. To have two Diamond mods here at all times we'd likely need at least 8-10 mods. Not going to happen. We are volunteers, not shift workers. – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 14:36
  • Very true. I also just now understood that objectionable posts will be automatically deleted if enough flags are raised even without moderator intervention so your point is entirely valid, @Catija. – English Student Aug 22 '17 at 14:40
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    @EnglishStudent keep using your votes and flags to the fullest, and use them wisely. – NVZ Aug 22 '17 at 15:25
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    @Catija eh. I agree with you that moderators cant be expected to handle everything instantly. But given the amount of work this site involves--not just flags, but community leadership--I think theres a good case that this site might benifit from one or two more mods. Given that what's time consuming about closing questions/other tasks isnt the actual closeing but explaining the decision on meta, rallying the community behind it, etc... – user288 Aug 22 '17 at 15:41
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    @Hamlet Rallying the community and writing meta decisions isn't something that requires a moderator diamond. – Catija Aug 22 '17 at 15:53
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    I have a couple notes to make. (1) First, our flag-handling average has been 11 hours/flag in the past week. That includes auto-flags, which we sometimes let sit for a bit. (2) 36 hours isn't that long to wait for a flag to be handled, especially given that the one you're referring to was somewhat low-priority. (3) If a boat's filling with water faster than you can bail it out, you don't ask another boat nearby for help; you try to understand why there's such a big hole. I'd rather try to understand and solve the root problem of why we're getting many flags, rather than just getting more mods. – HDE 226868 Aug 23 '17 at 14:42
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    (4) Mods should be exception handlers and janitors. If the site can't go 6-8 hours without needing immediate moderator attention . . . then there are bigger problems we need to address. I know of no other beta site that has gotten five moderators within the first ~8 weeks. It's troubling if we're that much of an outlier. – HDE 226868 Aug 23 '17 at 14:45
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    @HDE226868 I think the problem is that a lot of the poor quality stuff rain down from HNQ and those users do not stick around to be a part of the community moderation activities. And we're reaching at least 4-8 HNQs a day. So there's that. – NVZ Aug 23 '17 at 15:41
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    'Why we get more flags' is a most constructive way of thinking, @HDE226868 -- it might well be related to the type of divisive topics that are raised as a question occasionally. Again this is unpredictable and 3 mods can easily deal with flags most of the time. But what if a major multi-member argument erupts on a sensitive topic when the 3 mods are either offline or busy with real-world necessities? More mods reduce this risk. You have to admit that IPS.SE is growing rapidly, qualitatively more than quantitatively -- I've no need to criticise mods but flags need rapid response IMHO. – English Student Aug 23 '17 at 21:31
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    There are 2668 users here with the ability to flag-delete comments, spam, and rude or abusive posts; it only takes 3 flags per comment (more if upvoted) and 6 per post. There are 87 users here who can vote to close questions that are generating arguments - it takes no more than 5 votes per question, so they could trivially close every divisive thread posted each day without breaking a sweat. There are 35 users here who can edit any post without needing approval; they can single-handedly remove problematic language… Should they choose to. This site has plenty of mods - it needs more guts. – Shog9 Aug 29 '17 at 23:06
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Let me be clear: we're here to answer questions about how to solve interpersonal problems. We are not here to argue about ideologies.

I'm sorry to say you are missing the point.

We live in times when politics play an important part in interpersonal problems and relations. You cannot just wish that away, just pretend the problem does not exist. It will not work.

For example, last year, during the US election campaign, on another forum I lurk on, I was fascinated by the number of posts like "OMG my husband is gonna vote trump, I'll have to divorce." It struck me that these people could have ironed out that small point of disagreement before going to the altar and everything. You know, like adults and stuff.

The same people are on your interpersonal stackexchange now. Because these people are normal people.

I will predict several possible outcomes:

  • Status quo: people keep expressing their opinions, and moderators only slap down people who are too rude or really out of bounds. Is there anything wrong with this? I think not.
  • Politically correct people and SJWs take over the site and admin roles and actively censor and shame anyone who disagrees with them. Thus, everyone who disagrees leave, the site becomes an echo chamber and ultimately dies and falls off the internet.

I'm an engineer. I design electronic stuff. This crap doesn't run on wishful thinking or ideology. So I have to take on a pragmatic attitude. Whenever I apply the power to something I built, I'm ready to be proven wrong, by sparks, smoke, fire, or worse, all of which happened. But the majority of people don't think like that, in fact most firmly believe if they blow enough hot air and shriek hard enough their wishes will come true.

So, I'm afraid the current situation is too polarized to suggest other outcomes. You can either ban the righties, or ban the lefties, or act as a referee and try to be reasonable.

EDIT

Explanation for the kinda rude sentences above:

I favor the scientific method whenever I need factual information, because it is the only one known to work. For example, if I want to know how a system performs in a situation that is not covered in the documentation, then I will either design and carry out an experiment, or google it and find someone who already did.

I accept to be proven wrong at any time, and it does happen, it comes built-in with the job description. There is nothing wrong with being wrong... it should be grasped an opportunity to learn.

Thus, this post was a probe. I wanted to measure the ambient level of SJWism here. So, I stated the truth, while carefully wording it in a way that would be slightly offending to the target group. Thus, the amount of downvotes would be highly correlated to ambient SJWism. Simple as that.

But I am a good evil overlord, so in the next paragraph I explained my masterplan for anyone to see, but I obfuscated a little bit, then added another triggering sentence. The intent was to select for people who would choke on the rude words, stop thinking and miss the big picture..

When you want to know what people truly think about "really touchy subject X" then asking is no use, because subject X is really touchy. So I poke them a little bit, say something that will elicit a response, and observe the results. For example, if you want to know if someone is a racist at their core, you do not ask, because the social stigma of being racist is high, so they will lie. Instead you casually mention about your sister dagting a black guy, and watch for subtle clues, changes of attitude and other observable outputs that a human being shows. And then you have your answer.

So I watched the downvotes pile up. I was not disappointed. Therefore I will update my previous predictions:

This is your answer: this stackexchange is doomed.

Have a nice day.

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