If you spend any time on Meta Stack Exchange or on The Workplace Meta, you may have seen a couple of Feature requests for a new post notice. What you might not have seen was my support for them and request that, if implemented, it be added to Interpersonal Skills as well as The Workplace.
Last week, Shog9 responded and added the post notice to both sites. The wording has changed very slightly (from "Controversial Post" to "Controversial Topic") but it's otherwise the same as what Shog announced in his MSE and TWP Meta answers.
With that in mind... Here's what I've implemented:
Controversial Post — You may use comments ONLY to suggest improvements. You may use answers ONLY to provide a solution to the specific question asked above. Moderators will remove debates, arguments or opinions without notice.
We requested the change from post -> topic to help the question's OP feel less "at fault" for asking the question as it's the topic that's controversial, not the post itself.
You can see it in action for the first time on IPS here:
This question was attracting many comments about vegetarian/vegan people that were rude and unnecessary and, in an effort to curtail future comments and any similar answers, I've added this notice.
The hope is that we will not need to use it often, but it's in our tool kit if we need it.
So, along with this post notice comes a reminder:
Remember, we're here to answer the questions that are asked, not the questions we wish them to be.
From the very beginning we've had to deal with users taking a controversial topic and trying to turn it into a soapbox for their own agenda. If I'd had this post notice when the Vegan Question was asked, I would have used it.
More recently, I think it could have been applied to questions like this one about being harassed by friends. The question there is about how to talk to your friends about their jokes but a couple of the answers spent more time trying to educate the asker about the problem they saw in the situation - the OP being sexually harassed - and then arguing with people who disagreed with the attribution of that term than in actually helping the OP constructively discuss this with someone they consider a friend.
The accepted answer there did a good job of this while still encouraging the OP to consider that the teasing may cross the line into harassment and that they should be aware of it and consider addressing it.
If you feel that comments are getting out of hand and are doing more than asking for clarification or improvement but are rather attacking an answer by disagreeing with it, I implore you to flag the comments or the posts the comments are on for our attention and stop responding to them. If someone wants to argue with your (or someone else's) answer, they need to do that by writing an answer of their own that puts forth their solution or by voting on the answer.
Disengage. Flag. Take it to meta if you want to discuss something specific. Don't use posts or comments to argue.
We all have our pet issues... things that we hate to see people disagree with but remember that, often (not always), the subject of the concern is tangential to the concern... So a question about getting coworker vegans to stop harassing you about eating meat is actually pretty similar to a friend harassing you about whether you should be dating another friend.
In these two cases, the situation (coworkers vs friends) plays a bigger role than what the issue is - if you swap the two issues, the solution in each case is largely the same:
- for coworkers - go to HR and ask them to help you with the situation (since asking them directly hasn't worked).
- for friends - have a private talk and explain how it makes you feel when they do that and, if they continue despite that, find some new friends.
Both cases are harassment. In both cases, the OP wants it to stop. Let's focus on getting it to stop, not on diagnosing their situation based on a few paragraphs of explanation.