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I feel that the question How to handle people who don't get along on Stack Exchange? hasn't been given enough thought as to its closure.

Robert C., our community builder for stack exchange closed this question as off-topic, citing that it belonged to the meta mother-site, and not-migrating the question itself, for compatibility reasons, orphaned question, and whatnot.

Politics aside, I think that this is a great question that would benefit much more from content that users could contribute to it, and the fact that the question still isn't migrated, and it's not deleted give me hope that it may be re-opened.

@Catija has informed me that I should respond to Is it ok to ask questions about issues on Stack Exchange? If so, where do we draw the line?.

And the executive summary is that the majority of the highly rated answers there state that the SO meta is a good place for personal issues and one-off problems that are very specific, while questions relates specifically to IPS (Be they including this site or not) are on-topic. The question as it sits right now is specific to stack exchange, but not to the user, providing a good opportunity for a canonical answer.

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    You'll need to consider the related meta question here: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1243/36 – Catija Sep 11 '17 at 19:27
  • @Catija I think that the answer there is that it can't be opinion based.. I'm not sure how opinion based this question is, not very from what I gather. – tuskiomi Sep 11 '17 at 19:29
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    What? That has nothing to do with opinions... "court of public opinion" has nothing to do with opinions, if you're talking about my answer (read the link there). Robert has explained on that question why this is what they think should be done... – Catija Sep 11 '17 at 19:32
  • @Catija the big sales-point of SE is that it's whatever the community wants it to be. right now, your answer, the one with more points than the combined sum of the others is what the community thinks. With all respect to Robert and his work, his answer isn't as relevant as yours. I do think that the "CPO" you're referring to does have very much to do with opinion, influence and action in many things, including most of SE. as for the other part, the question still fits the on-topic bill, As it's about a general topic, not a specific grievance. – tuskiomi Sep 11 '17 at 19:38
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    Even general topics can turn into a CPO issue. This exact issue is one of them... You're making a CPO argument for why this should be allowed when someone who works for SO and is one of the leads on this topic has said that it is preferred that we not do it. It's worth looking at the dates, though. My answer is much older than Robert's (in the scale of this site)... 4 days into public beta vs 20. All of the votes on my answer happened before Robert posted his. – Catija Sep 11 '17 at 19:44
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    The fact that Robert not only posted that answer but also closed all of the questions about Stack Exchange implies that this is an official decision, not one that's up for debate... and the reason I posted my first comment is that, if you really want to debate this, you need to address the concerns addressed in Robert's answer there. – Catija Sep 11 '17 at 19:46
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    @Catija I am not denying that i'm making this into a CPO, as stated, it's what the meta is for. Again, I don't think Robert's status is relevant. Stack exchange is community driven, not community driven, but SO has its hand on the hand brake. As for the time difference, You're right, that's a big factor, esp. when the site is new, but If we can't uphold an answer because of a simple time difference, then the meta becomes very moot, with people making responses months, years after other answers, and then nullifying them. – tuskiomi Sep 11 '17 at 19:49
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    @tuskiomi nope, it's actually the other way around. Stack exchange is community driven, but SO has its hand on the hand brake, is the correct version. Not everything is community driven here. This is to avoid chaos. Some agency should watch over the sites to maintain some form of order. Also, this is not a non-profit organization. – NVZ Sep 11 '17 at 20:07
  • @NVZ I disagree. I think what's watching over the sites causes a major loss of agency. (take this as an example). – tuskiomi Sep 11 '17 at 20:16
  • So you want it reopened because it's not migrated or deleted, is that it? – NVZ Sep 11 '17 at 20:26
  • @NVZ That's why I have hope... I state right before that "I think that this is a great question that would benefit much more from content that users could contribute to it" – tuskiomi Sep 11 '17 at 20:31
  • @Catija the time it's been posted is sort of irrelevant - especially now, seeing it's getting so much attention. – user57 Sep 12 '17 at 4:49
  • @tuskiomi see my answer below. I agree - it's community driven, but stack exchange itself is the hand brake and makes the final decisions – user57 Sep 12 '17 at 4:49
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I find that question - and many "how do I ... on Stack Exchange?" questions - problematic for a few reasons...

  1. They feel like someone trying to do an end-run around having an actual meta discussion. This is subjective, but I can't ignore it - these meta sites exist precisely because it's healthy for folks in a community such as this to be able to talk to one another about problems that they encounter on the site... Including interpersonal problems. If you're eschewing these meta sites for a main-site discussion, you're depriving your peers in that community of a chance to, y'know, communicate with you.

    This is obvious, right? So why would you try to do that? Well, a couple of likely reasons spring to mind...

    • You don't know how to communicate effectively on meta and want advice on that. This might actually make for a good IPS question, but not without a lot of specifics... Which has its own set of problems. See #3 below and the notes that follow.

    • You anticipate negative responses to your actual question and hope to go in armed with the support of folks who aren't actually part of your community. This sort of thing is so common that there's probably an Official Internet Term for it, but let's call it the "all my friends agree that I'm right" tactic - you've no interest in improving your own communications skills, you just want a posse.

  2. They tend to be overly broad. Of course, if someone got all specific & asked how to politely get their programming question reopened, we wouldn't be having this discussion - that class of question obviously belongs on meta. So the author, probably realizing this, decides to try & generalize it to "online communities like Stack Exchange". Hooray - now the question would be inappropriate for meta! But... Only because it's effectively unanswerable. Asking an IPS question about an online gathering is little different from asking an IPS question about a corporeal gathering; we need to know the culture/locale/setting in order to provide reasonable advice. A question that provides a setting of "online communities" is slightly more vague than one that provides a setting of "English-speaking people of the world".

  3. And they're also unclear. Well, sure - this is the flip side of the coin from Too Broad, right? If you're not specifying a particular community, then you probably aren't including any specifics of the actual problem either; without knowing what anyone actually said or did, we're left with your biased opinions as to what happened, without any facts with which to help you identify your biases or even guess at what they might be.

Notes on self-improvement

So... That's pretty damning, right? Well... Yeah, I think so. But there may be one situation where it's appropriate to ask these questions here: you've tried to raise an issue on meta, failed to get your point across, and are looking for help improving your own communication skills so that you do a better job next time.

Note the emphasis: this has to be about you. Not Stack Exchange. Not the people who didn't listen to you on meta, or the folks who ignored you in chat, or the mean nasty employees who responded tersely when you emailed them... You.

In that situation, you can afford to be forthcoming: describe the exact scenario, what you hoped to accomplish, what you wrote, and the response you got instead. And if that makes you uneasy... Then maybe this is still the wrong site to be asking on.

  • So, would you consider the question HDE asked, which I linked to in my answer on the other question, to fall into this last group, "Self Improvement"? interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/235/… – Catija Sep 12 '17 at 2:02
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    Kinda stands out that the question focuses almost entirely on some other person and contains little or no information about its author's actions, eh @Catija? – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 2:15
  • So if the question was "how can I improve my request so that it conveys why it's important to improve their punctuation?" – Catija Sep 12 '17 at 2:24
  • "we need to know the culture/locale/setting in order to provide reasonable advice" this is a very contentious point on this site. I think it might be worth spending a paragraph or so explaining why this is the case. – user288 Sep 12 '17 at 2:29
  • I don't think that These problems are broad, as the question of how many of these questions we want here, and it was determined that they are on topic. unclear is not really a good reason, either. With the catch-all nature of 'Unclear', a questions should be able to be clarified to the point where it's on-topic, no? – tuskiomi Sep 12 '17 at 2:30
  • Nothing dictates that a given question cannot exhibit multiple problems, @tuskiomi; no two close reasons are universally mutually-exclusive. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 2:38
  • @Shog9 I know, and I didn't mean to say that the two at the same time are silly. – tuskiomi Sep 12 '17 at 2:41
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    And that's why you get folks arguing bitterly over politics when they should be helping someone understand the culture into which they're trying to operate, @Hamlet. It's a mistake to assume that there are universal rules of communication which can be used to effectively answer every question; context is critical. Abandon that and you end up with NLP / "win friends and influence people" axioms, not answers. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 2:42
  • I'm not familiar with the specific situation that HDE is dealing with, @Catija - but I've certainly encountered similar situations myself many times. I suspect (but don't know - the question doesn't say) that HDE is perfectly able to communicate in this situation, but is vexed by others who are less able... If that's the case, the actual question is something along the lines of, "how can I encourage others to edit instead of critiquing?" or some such. But, I'm just speculating; the question is unclear. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 2:45
  • What's an NLP? Asking for a friend. – Catija Sep 12 '17 at 3:03
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    Snake oil masquerading as self-help, @Catija. "Power of positive thinking" nonsense dressed up in pseudoscientific terms; occasionally hawked by unscrupulous motivational speakers, "pick-up artists", etc. See also: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/15590/… – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 3:10
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    @Shog9 you know I admire and respect you, but this was quite a negative nelly answer - please see my reply to you – user57 Sep 12 '17 at 4:43
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    I intentionally avoided refreshing my memory as to the situation that prompted your question, @Yvette, since at least some of the context there isn't publicly available and even that which is isn't directly accessible from the question - I think it's important to consider these questions in isolation; the further we get from the point in time when they're asked the harder it becomes for a casual reader to piece together this context. So... Taking the question by itself, how should it be interpreted? Pretend you aren't the author - how would you construct a context that allows you to answer? – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 5:04
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    It doesn't particularly matter how well I know you, @Yvette - the question is directed at anyone using the site. If I was answering a question like that, my first step would be to ask a number of clarifying questions, to better establish the context and the specific nature of the difficulties you were facing; that's just being diligent IMHO, but also is problematic in a Q&A site where answers may be posted at any time. In terms of whether such questions are on- or off-topic here, that's something that'll likely warrant further discussion as (or if) future questions are asked. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 5:19
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    Definitely not personal; I didn't even realize you'd written the example question until I'd written about half of this answer. Feel free to ping me in chat anytime. – Shog9 Sep 12 '17 at 5:20
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Questions that, essentially, bring a site-specific matter from another site here looking for support and affirmation are poor questions that should be closed. That's true whether the other site is an SE community, a subreddit, or the unicorn-lovers mailing list. (This is not an exhaustive list.)

Questions that ask what you can do about problems you encountered on other sites, including SE, are just as on-topic as questions about problems you encountered with your family, coworkers, bowling league, or place of worship. (This is not an exhaustive list.)

Robert's post, as I read it, says that we should close those questions because they belong on site-specific metas or Meta.SE. But "fits better on another site" is not a valid reason to close a question. As Shog9 wrote in Respect the community -- your own, and others':

As members of a community, your first loyalty should be to that community. When evaluating a question, you shouldn’t be looking to push it off on some other site; instead, ask if it could be appropriate and on-topic for you, the experts who the author decided to ask. Be a bit jealous of your site – don’t blithely turn askers away simply because their question could be asked somewhere else. Don’t hit them over the head with your scope, help them tailor their question to fit into it – and if that means your site’s scope overlaps a bit with another site’s, so be it.

IPS is not the first site to have this kind of overlap. Community Building also covers questions about things that happen in Stack Exchange communities, such as:

All of these questions could be asked on metas. Some of them probably have been. Asking on Community Building invites answers from a broader perspective, which can be valuable -- experiences of dealing with people and shared content and abusive behavior and other issues transcend platform. So long as the questions aren't "solve this problem I'm having on Server Fault", it's fine.

And all of that is true for interpersonal communications, too. A question can gain valuable answers from people who've never used any other SE site but who have other relevant experience. The focus with these questions, on both CB and IPS, is "community (or people) first, SE second". On Meta.SE and the child metas, on the other hand, it's usually the reverse -- the SE network and its mechanics, policies, and history are front and center, and answers that drift too far away from that will not fare well.

Don't treat IPS as your out-of-band appeal channel for that argument you're having over on Unicorns.SE. Don't treat it as a substitute for using meta -- your site's, and MSE -- to resolve differences. But some questions are less about the specific issue and more about a general situation, and we should welcome those without demanding that askers first file off the serial numbers. (Provided, of course, that they meet our other criteria -- "good subjective", not too broad, etc.)


A postscript: IPS is a Stack Exchange community, and Stack Exchange always has the final word. If they don't want a certain type of content on a site, then the site won't have that content. I don't think Robert's post is SE policy or I wouldn't have bothered to post this. SE employees are also sometimes users, and I'm assuming that's the case here. (Granted, this user also has mod powers.)

  • I ended up writing an answer - I'm glad you commented under the question - I wouldn't have seen this. Cheers – user57 Sep 12 '17 at 4:39

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