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Each SE site, despite having the same guidelines, has a specific "culture" if you will, a community consensus usually reached in meta and implemented by users and moderators. The culture can aim to be very professional, accepting and tolerant, or other. Much of the perception of the community will be due to comments; in other words, comments can inform a site's culture as much as Q&As.

On the first site I participated in, I used to welcome new users because I was welcomed and I appreciated it. I was sent a mod message to stop this "problematic behavior". What I was too new to notice was that the comment also contained a useful piece of advice about my post. However, I was asked by some users why I had stopped doing this, because it was so nice. (The site aims for a degree of professionalism, though, where I could see this as an unwanted behavior. Not a problem.)

Comments send a message. The message can be helpful or harmful, welcoming or off-putting, kind or blunt, or anything in between. (The most unwelcoming comments I've seen were not on this site, so it's not about any user here.) Obviously, we can flag comments that violate the Be Nice policy, but I'm talking about the tone of everyday comments. Without singling any users out, I've seen some comments asking for, say, more detail that were off-putting. I've seen the opposite as well. Often people don't even recognize that a comment can be interpreted as rude.* The written word is subject to misinterpretation that way.

  1. Would it be useful to have stock comments for users to post under questions/answers for common scenarios that set the standard of "friendliness" or "professionalism" which we want to achieve?

  2. When leaving a comment to a new (to the site) user, would it be considered good form on this site to welcome them first?

*I am guilty of this as well. Sometimes I reread something I wrote and wonder what the hell was I thinking?!

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  • By "new user", is it "new to the SE concept" or any user including "experienced user from other SE sites who just join this site"? – Andrew T. Aug 31 '17 at 19:10
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    Happens to us all :D I don't know how many times I've worked through a question and realized that I was asking a completely different question by the time I was finished. – Catija Aug 31 '17 at 19:49
  • What site sent you a mod message to stop welcoming new users? – NVZ Sep 1 '17 at 4:27
  • @NVZ - EL&U. lol. But the culture there is more serious, It was ok. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 5:01
  • I suppose the upvotes on the question indicate support. i.e. yes we should. – NVZ Sep 2 '17 at 5:35
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I'm going to preface this by talking about one of the other sites I use.

Movies & TV

On M&TV, there are tons and tons of questions asked that are "Identify this ___" questions. These exist on lots of sites. Some sites allow them completely, some sites prohibit them and some sites try to stick in the middle by requiring a certain amount of detail else the question is closed. M&TV is this last type. They have a list of details that an ID question must have in order to remain open.

  • Plot details of any scenes you remember
  • Descriptions of any characters or locations
  • Where you watched the movie or TV show
  • When you watched the movie or TV show
  • Any idea of how old it was
  • Any idea of country of origin (if known)
  • Whether it was animated or not
  • Any other distinctive detail

Now, you might say - "How can someone possibly include all of that information!" - and that's fair. We actually, honestly don't. We have the guidelines as a strong recommendation in order to help the askers get better answers and to help the site restrict the questions that are left open. It's a balancing act. If someone has an excellent description of the plot and characters, we'll probably go a little easier on them when it comes to the other details. If there's no good detail, the users are pretty active about commenting to get that information lest the question be closed - and following through on actually closing questions that lack the necessary detail:

We have a minimum standard for ID questions. Please try to add anything that may help identification. When was it released? Was it in Color or Black & White? What time period was it showing? What country was it likely from or what language was it in? Are there any other plot details you remember? Descriptions of scenes or names of characters or actors you can give? Feel free to edit any additional details into the question. For help writing a good identification question, see: Identify-This-X Questions.

This is the comment that one of the users puts on many of the ID questions that are missing detail. They have a question for each bullet point on the list above and more... working to ferret out any additional info. But Paulie_D is careful to remove any points from the comment that are already in the question.

The comments are used well. I'm also guessing he's using the AutoReviewComments add-on from Stack Apps, which will automatically add "Welcome to {sitename}!" if the user has under a certain amount of reputation, which makes the comments slightly more... welcoming. I strongly recommend this app to anyone who wants to formalize comments this way.

This, I think, is a good use of canned/stock comments.

  1. Not blindly commenting on the question with a catch-all comment that may only be partially applicable to the question.
  2. Firmly written. It may be a bit stiff, to be honest, but these questions are a major problem, so it fits the use case well.
  3. Clear explanation of what is requested.
  4. An edit magic link - many new users have trouble figuring out how to edit posts, and will often try to add details in comments. A nudge in the right direction is invaluable. Typing [edit] in a comment will create a link that opens the edit window.
  5. Link/s to helpful article/s.
  6. Asks something that the community has agreed on is necessary for site quality. - This is probably the most important part.

So, what about IPS?

We are currently actually working up our own sort of "laundry list" of things that are either necessary or nice to have in questions here. I think having a list similar to what M&TV has of things we can remind questions to include would help make the site's expectations more cohesive.

Like M&TV, we don't need to be draconian about requiring each and every box to be ticked when the question is asked and before it can be answered. Some of the questions may not require the entire list - it may be overwhelming, particularly for a user who is new to this site and the policies to be hit with four comments, one asking for location, one for details, one for shoe size... each possibly asked by a different person.

Having a single comment that lays out all of the things we'd like them to include in the question and worded in a way that is welcoming and friendly would be beneficial. I'm not saying that we require everyone to use them - that's just silly - but having them as a resource where they're accessible to those users who want to help improve question quality, that's great. This should be available with the note that emphasizes:

DO NOT BLINDLY POST THIS EVERYWHERE - Edit this comment as necessary to tailor it to the question/answer you're posting it on.

Note, I include answer here because we most definitely should also make one for answers, since we have as many guidelines for quality answers as we do for questions.

I'm clearly not the right person to write this... but I'm sure we have someone with a modicum of tact who could.


Why are these default comments useful?

One of the hardest parts of moderating a site - and I mean the stuff that doesn't require a diamond - is writing helpful comments that actually get people to act - edit (or remove) their posts. If one person is really great at that, that's amazing! Unfortunately, that's just one person. We are not all great at it.

As such, having a comment that everyone can use, written by that very smart person (or a group of less smart people) who knows how to write comments that ride the line between nice and firm, means that we can all do the work together without worrying that we're not saying it effectively or that we're burning out the person who can.

We're two months in. We want to make moderating this site as easy as we can for everyone here because this is not an easy site to moderate. By writing these comments, we've empowered anyone with 50+ reputation to be more effective moderators. Whether they choose to use them or not is, of course, up to them but having them is the first step.


Cleanup

As part of this, we need to be conscientious about removing these notes when the user has complied. Flag to have them deleted and a mod will do so or, if the person who posted it is in chat, ping them there and let them know that the comment is no longer needed. We don't want to leave gobs of these all over the site on questions that look good. It will be confusing to people.


Other considerations

As NVZ says, we should be careful to note that, if one of these comments exists on an unedited post, it may be additionally necessary to either down vote or vote to close the post. These comments do not replace closing questions. If a question is lacking in valuable details, it needs to be put on hold until improved. When we fail to close un-detailed questions, we give less-informed users the opportunity to answer.

Once a question is answered, the OP has less incentive to edit their question, even if doing so leads to better, more useful answers. This requires that users with sufficient reputation remain cognizant and cast those votes as appropriate and be ready to retract them after the post is edited.


Welcome messages

I'm ambivalent. I delete a lot of them. Linking to the help center right now doesn't do much because it's still set at the default information. Even the tour page doesn't have any custom text. Personally I'd prefer to limit greeting messages to saying something other than "welcome, read our tour and help pages". You won't find me posting these. That being said, I'll generally wait to delete them until a couple of days have passed (they get flagged - I don't seek them out).

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  • Thank you for this very informative and detailed answer! I didn't know a lot of this helpful information. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 1:21
  • It's a valid point. Linking to help center or tour doesn't do much good, I'll have to rewrite some of my canned responses. If you have suggestions, do tell me in chat. – NVZ Sep 1 '17 at 3:10
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Stock comments

Posting the same stock comments on everything may not be helpful. Meanwhile, it is practically impossible to write a personalised comment every single time.

There has to be a balance.

Stock comments (or canned responses, as I call it) has been very useful for me in my moderation activities (without the diamond, that is). I've been using them on all sites I frequent, especially on ELU.

I don't always slam the template onto new users. I edit and tailor them to specific situations or users as far as possible and depending on the time I have for it.

AutoReviewComments is a script I've been using for quite a while. I've also invited a lot of users to it. It's even available as a Chrome/Firefox extension/add-on.

Welcoming new users

It's a common courtesy to welcome new visitors, online or otherwise. Being on IPS, there's, even more, the reason to do so. I've prefaced most of my comments with "welcome to [sitename]" on most occasions. The script does it automatically as well, based on the user's newness.

Apart from such comments, I also make sure to use my votes, flags, or both, solely based on a post's merit regardless of the user who posted it.

If it's a question lacking details, I will guide the OP, but at the same time, I will close it, or else it will invite poor quality answers.

It's also important to downvote poor quality questions quickly. It only takes 4 downvotes to knock a question off the homepage, and therefore prevent answers to it. (Shog9 ♦ told me so)

If it's an answer lacking details, I will guide the OP, but at the same time, I will vote down on it, or else it will get upvoted by the bandwagon effect, say, when it enters the HNQ.

I often return to the relevant posts to see if there are any edits. If the question or answer has improved, I will reopen or upvote them, and remove my comments since they're no longer needed.


If anyone comes across my such comments, feel free to flag them if they're no longer needed. Also, I'd appreciate your feedback on ways to improve it. Reach me on chat.

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    I agree that poor quality posts are a problem on any site, and every site struggles with them, some more than others. On most sites, I'm liberal with flags and DVs. New users should be guided, though, not alienated. Who knows? An initially poor contributor might become a valuable community member. – anongoodnurse Aug 31 '17 at 20:05
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    Yes, I will guide new users to the best of my ability. – NVZ Aug 31 '17 at 20:06
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    It is the valid experience of NVZ that downvotes and close votes do much more to 'guide' new users than constructive criticism or helpful comments, @anongoodnurse. When a question gets closed, OP sits up and takes serious notice. When an answer gets downvoted twice, a new user is very anxious indeed to 'improve his answer!' – English Student Aug 31 '17 at 22:10
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    @NVZ - I love your canned responses on ELU; they're great. Keep up the good work. – AndyT Sep 5 '17 at 9:23
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I really hate stock/canned comments.

There's nothing wrong with welcoming people to the site, but I'm not sure that the usual copy and paste comments are a good way to do it. To me they come across as, and honestly they tend to be, insincere and obviously copypasta.

It's a bit like two people who pass in the street when one says "What's up?" And the other replies "What's up?" and neither seem to notice because it's just a preprogrammed acknowledgement...

When it comes to comments asking for clarification it can be tempting to dump a canned response after having to ask the same question for the hundredth time, but I still think the lack of personal investment shows through. Are you asking because you honestly want to answer the question or because you are "being helpful" with enforcing site policy? Do you actually intend to follow up on the response?

Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with helping with moderating the site, but it does wear thin when it's the same handful of people posting three versions of the same canned comment on nearly every question asked...

I guess I'm saying that if you feel the need to comment, do it genuinely, or don't bother.

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  • I'm not sure you've addressed why I'm asking about stock comments; mostly you're just saying that you don't like them "because...". Or maybe I'm missing it. – anongoodnurse Aug 31 '17 at 23:07
  • @anongoodnurse Mostly saying that it's better to write a few genuine comments than a near endless stream of canned "friendly" comments. I tend to notice that people use them differently when it's an easy canned response, so they're not as friendly as they seem on the surface. – apaul Aug 31 '17 at 23:14
  • @anongoodnurse consider the comments here: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/2605/59 – apaul Aug 31 '17 at 23:33
  • @apaul34208 What's wrong with the comments there? I suppose you are pointing towards mine. – NVZ Sep 1 '17 at 3:18
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    @apaul34208 I've posted thousands of comments over the years, and it's not necessary to write new comments every single time. I do however modify the templates quite often and tailor it to specific users. That has helped far too many users, and I've followed up almost every single time. – NVZ Sep 1 '17 at 3:20
  • @anongoodnurse if it makes it any clearer, the interaction you had with Hamlet today is 90% of the reason I'm against canned comments... – apaul Sep 1 '17 at 4:13
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    @apaul34208 - If anythig, the interaction I had with Hamlet today is one of the reasons I'm in favor of canned comments. One comment (now removed) i found pretty offensive. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 4:20
  • @anongoodnurse fair enough. I just notice that people that are really into the pedantic sniping thing also tend to be into using the canned comments as a means of doing it. – apaul Sep 1 '17 at 4:23
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    My point is if the comments were standardized to be polite and welcoming, it would reduce comments that are off-putting. That's my only hope. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 4:26
  • @NVZ I know you are generally better about your comments than a lot of people are. I only chose that thread to show the contrast between taking the time to write something a little more personalized and a canned comment. – apaul Sep 1 '17 at 4:26
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    @anongoodnurse here's hoping it works... – apaul Sep 1 '17 at 4:28
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    @apaul34208 "Taking the time to write personalised comments?" -- I took the time to prepare these canned comments. I took the time to care for new users. I took the time to tailor it to specific situations. I took the time to be as polite yet concise as I could as a non-native speaker. I took the time to follow up. Don't expect me to type completely personalised comments because this is not my job. I do help in my own way. If it has been harmful, only then it should be stopped. I'm open to suggestions. Do send me your suggestions via chat. :) – NVZ Sep 1 '17 at 4:33
  • @NVZ - I had canned comments to use on EL&U as well. Tailored when necessary, but mostly kind. A ton of them. – anongoodnurse Sep 1 '17 at 5:04
  • @anongoodnurse unless you show me some examples, I'll never know why ELU mods made you stop posting comments. – NVZ Sep 7 '17 at 19:06

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