27

Today I saw a weak, but well voted, answer.

There were a number of viable, potential answers to the question. So this was not a "how do I drive drunk safely" impossible answer that must be answered "you don't". The answerer thought it was, though, which I think was hasty.

The answerer did indeed proscribe an answer. But even the answerer didn't like it, since the answerer spent several paragraphs tearing the answer to shreds and predicting woe and suffering if the answer was followed. That didn't really seem like an answer to me. I wouldn't have minded if it was an aside to a good answer. The answerer is capable of better and I wanted to see the answerer step up.

But how do you have that discussion?

The ways I tried didn't work: First simply saying "This is not an answer to the question." And then explaining how I felt "you don't" isn't an answer, frameshifts shouldn't be extreme or made lightly, an answer you tear apart isn't an answer, etc. This melted down very rapidly into violations of "be nice", "assume good intent", mass deletion and an admonishment of "This Ends Here" without any link to a rule to support it.

Last I heard, comments were precisely for commenting on problems with answers. That is literally their one purpose, and it seemed that I was the only one following that rule.

So going forward... how are you supposed to handle fundamental flaws in answers like this? Is there a reasonable and standard process which should apply to all Contributors equally? I am assuming that is a core value here. Am I mistaken?

11 Answers 11

84

See here's the thing about that... It wasn't a bad answer, or a wrong answer, it was just an answer that you happened to personally disagree with. That's about it. Your disagreement doesn't make the answer a straw man, or a political rant, it's still just an answer that you happen to personally disagree with. If you really need evidence of the fact that it was an answer, take a look at the votes. Last I looked some 80 users thought it was an answer worth upvoting while only 6 bothered to downvote.

Now what can/should you do with an answer you personally disagree with?

You can vote, and write your own answer. Trying to argue someone into changing their answer into what you personally think the answer ought to be is just a huge waste of time and, more often than not, leads to arguing in circles.

If you have a different perspective, and think you really know what the answer ought to be, write your own answer if your answer is actually better it may even gain some votes and out do the answer that you personally disagree with.

We tend to flag comments that seek to argue with answers because they're generally not productive. This isn't a forum. This isn't the place to discuss. This is a place to ask and answer questions. So... If you personally disagree with an answer, write your own answer.


On the very rare occasion, someone may post an "answer" that really has nothing at all to do with the question. If you spot one of these, you should still avoid arguing about it in the comment section. Flag it, vote on it, and if you think you know what the answer should be, write your own answer.

  • 7
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Being a bit more talkative on meta is fine; having a discussion degrade into baiting and arguing is not. Further such unconstructive comments will be deleted. – HDE 226868 Feb 27 '18 at 18:04
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    that's a really bad answer and here's why. stack exchange promotes electronic nepotism in a very strong way. we can observe this most in sites like electronics.se, where the disparity of views on answers are intensely weighted towards a small family of members. the operation is much the same here. the working principal is as follows: so long as there is a lot of text, and a lot of reputation, members of such a family don't care what is written, and issue an upvote. this, among other powers granted to high rep users lets those families with high reputation remain undisputed, and when.... – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 0:03
  • it is disputed, the families have enough rep to smite down such users to the pits of hell. this can be seen in ppcg SE very strongly. this there is a strong, innate, hive mind pull towards these families without actually caring what's typed. while i can go now in depth about the flaws of the stack exchange model, the result is that the effort of agreement for the family members low, while the effort of agreement for any other user remains quite high. – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 0:20
  • [off topic] it's worth pointing out that the solution to this would be to obfuscate a user's points, username, and answer of all personal data to everyone until someone makes an effort to go to the user's personal page. AFAIK this would collapse the stack exchange families and thus be a big hit to the org, so it would never be done. – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 0:26
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    @tuskiomi Not really all that interested in having a discussion in the comments section. If you have something meaningful to say, write your own answer. – apaul Aug 3 '18 at 1:36
  • no, see above for why – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 1:47
  • @tuskiomi Oh, I see what happened now... Didn't realize that you were the same user. You can always edit that answer into a more fully formed answer, it reads more like commentary with a very brief answer tacked on as an after thought. Trust me, being a "high rep user" doesn't come with immediate acceptance into some sort of inner circle. It usually means that everything you say and do on a site gets put under the microscope, and it's not great. If anything people tend to hold your posts to a higher standard and are much more vocal when they don't like something. – apaul Aug 3 '18 at 3:32
  • @apaul trust me, i used to know. i delete and recreate all of my stack exchange accounts when their rep is too high. it used to be at 500, but I've topped out twice at 12k ish. I've noticed that after 200-300 rep the scrutiny of your posts is reduced majorly. at 1000-2500, people will comment minimally on your answer and largely ignore the content so long as it's expository in nature, and at 5,000 and up you start to get some recognition based on your name, and you get upvoted for being you. specifically on rpgSE, tongue and cheek answers get upvoted instead of downvoted among other sites – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 3:51
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    @tuskiomi Seems like something better taken to Meta.SE, but it's not something I've observed on this stack. What you may be seeing is people just getting to know each other over time. Higher rep users usually post more and tend to be interacting with the site more, so after a while you begin to recognize the regulars. Not so much about rep as it is about having talked, or in my case argued, with the person several times before. Take a look at the Awkward Silence Chatroom sometime. There's a pretty wide range of users with very different rep levels all chatting and getting to know each other. – apaul Aug 3 '18 at 4:01
  • @apaul ah yes, the chat rooms. i like them almost more than the site. I'll drop by some time. – tuskiomi Aug 3 '18 at 4:03
  • @tuskiomi if it helps, I just noticed that an answer I wrote just last night was downvoted and deleted interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/17222/… – apaul Aug 3 '18 at 4:18
28

Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

You can read more about this here.

This isn't a discussion site. It is a question and answer site. The only reason the main site has comments is to improve the questions and answers. Comments are to be used to ask for clarifications or add more information. It says this in the text box before you answer a question. Your comments were deleted because they weren't requesting clarification or suggesting improvements. When a mod tells you to stop doing something, stop doing it. Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

If you think that an answer is not useful downvote it. If you feel the answer could become useful if some improvements are made, you can offer a suggestion about how to improve the question. Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

If you think that an answer doesn't answer the question flag it as not an answer. If you don't understand how it answers the question, request clarification in the comments. Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

If you think there are problems that can't be addressed by the automated systems flag it for moderator attention. Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

Frame challenges are explicitly OK on this exchange. If you disagree with this, you can add an answer to the meta question about frame challenges. Don't argue in the comments on the main site.

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    @Harper There was already a comment on the post from a mod saying "Comments are not for extended discussion". Yet you tried to engage in discussion. Judging by how you don't have any suggestions for how to improve the answer in your question, just a lot of different ways of saying "this answer is bad" you weren't using the comments constructively. Probably most telling is that a moderator has gone in and removed your comments, telling you to not argue in the comments. – sphennings Feb 26 '18 at 23:04
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    Lots of what you suggest is simply not possible or will have no effect. Downvoting won't work because some can't DV, flaggin not applicable etc. The current comment-policy is very problematic too. If this community doesn't allow disagreement in comments (which is completely unintuitive), then it should be stated. Instead of "Comments are not for extended discussion" something that contains "see this site's policy about comments" would be much more helpful than delete and move on (which was my experience as well until I explicitly asked clarification on why comments are deleted). – Fermi paradox Feb 27 '18 at 5:36
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    @sphennings extended discussion. I posted a short comment (and later others pointed out that wasn't much of a comment). So I posted a proper comment. I certainly had not violated the "extended" rule at that point and there was nothing wrong with my comment. I did err in continuing discussion, you are right. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 16:27
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    I just don't see why pointing out a flaw in an answer is considered arguing, or why it isn't constructive. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 16:45
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    @BlackThorn The difference between criticism and constructive criticism is that after pointing out errors or mistakes, you actually help to improve. Leaving a short comment saying this is not an answer does not do that. – JAD Feb 27 '18 at 16:51
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    @JAD that isn't what I said. Any and all criticism of all flavors are deleted from IPS main. Strangely, comments showing solidarity (which are also technically against the rules) are not treated with the same zeal. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 16:54
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    @BlackThorn then flag them as "No Longer Needed". Mods aren't scouring all the comments of all the posts on the entire site, so unless you flag it's quite possible they didn't even see them. As far as why pointing out flaws only isn't allowed, read the link: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2144/… – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 16:57
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    @EmC I'm quite familiar with that post, but I'm just building sandcastles at low tide here. I find the difference between stating a flaw in an argument and doing the same thing with an added "could you improve this answer please?" just a little tedious and stifling. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 17:06
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    @BlackThorn Yeah, I get that. On this site, you're stuck with giving suggestions for improvement or not commenting at all. So the question phrasing is important, particularly as some people can be quite pedantic (more so when it's something they don't like). Theoretically it's also less hostile to the OP ("How does this account for X?" vs "You didn't consider X.") – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 17:23
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    @EmC we'll see. Someday this site will graduate from beta and hopefully the moderation will be largely reduced to resolving user flags, and the community will govern itself. I understand why comments have to be watched here (lots of opinions), but I am certainly not alone in thinking that the mods could back off a bit. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 17:29
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    @BlackThorn The comments here seem to be similar to Workplace for example, where moderators seem to spend a large amount of time cleaning up the comment sections. I don't think we'll ever escape moderator attention given the nature of IPS and general amount of comment discussion that results. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 17:32
  • @sphennings While the contents of your answer may be technically correct on its own, whether or not it appropriately fits the context of what happened is unknown to many of us participating in this meta discussion. Without that information, Harper can keep on harping and it sounds like he has an excellent point, and I am inclined to give Harper the benefit of the doubt. Would you be kind enough to take a minute to dig into the deleted comments in question and paste them in as an edit to your answer? – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 20:42
  • @Aaron I have no access to deleted comments. You can make whatever decision you want. Please stop trying to stir up controversy. – sphennings Feb 27 '18 at 20:49
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    I agree with the bulk of your answer, but feel this answer could be greatly improved with the removal of the bold repetition. As it stands, it feels condescending. – TemporalWolf Feb 28 '18 at 0:21
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    @Aaron I can see the deleted comments; sphenning's description here of the relevant ones is essentially correct. There was an extended discussion about whether or not the answer was valid. It dragged on for a while. Note that these were only a small part of the 81 total deleted comments on that post. – HDE 226868 Feb 28 '18 at 0:48
22

Comments are great for nit-picking. "You stated that nutria were released into the wild in the 1940s, but in fact this was first done in the 1930s..." - that kind of thing.

When the entire answer is wrong, misleading, dangerous or not even wrong... A comment is probably insufficient to address it. Yes, you can spend all day posting more comments and arguing with folks in the increasingly-impenetrable thread below the answer... But what good is that doing? Are you expecting the next reader to pause their cursor over the upvote button and say to themselves, "hold up a sec, there are a few dozen comments here - I better read those first"?

...'cause if so, I got some nutria fur futures to sell ya...

Write a better answer

JMac and apaul nailed this already - you want to write your own answer. But don't be content with presenting controversy - another opinionated answer doesn't really improve matters.

Instead, address the asker's problem head-on with facts and well-supported arguments, and then destroy the weak or unsupported assertions in other answers by calmly refuting them.

This is not the path to popularity, of course. Wild assertions and appeals to emotion are always going to win out. But the folks who are looking for something to agree with them aren't going to have to look far anyway; if there's one thing we should be relentlessly focused on here it is providing information not making folks feel good. If at least one answer does that, then the question isn't a total waste; if no answers do that, then no quantity of comments and kibitzing will save it.

Crosslinking

I should add one more thing... On most sites, it's totally fine to write that answer and then drop a link to it on another answer with a note such as, "I think this answer is problematic for numerous reasons, which I've tried to explain in detail in my answer here:"

This should be ok here too, but... It's entirely possible that such a comment will get swept up in a cleanup effort if there are loads and loads of people who are still kibitzing. So an alternate technique is the one I demonstrate in this very answer: link to other answer(s) that touch on similar subject matter in your own answer. This allows folks to both appreciate different perspectives and quickly identify areas you find problematic.

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    "wrong, misleading, dangerous [...] comment is probably insufficient to address it." But a comment is right there directly below answer which the user just read. Within the framework we have, that is the best place for that information and is more likely to be seen by many of us. "expecting the next reader to pause [...] and say to themselves '[...] I better read those first'" Yes, I do that all the time. In fact, I have often found great info in comments lacking from answers and dodged bullets in answers that comments warned of. So do both: comment, and make better answer if you can. – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 20:48
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    That's only true if you're one of the first 5 people to comment, one of the top 5 most-voted comments, or manage to get a moderator to delete all the comments except yours, @Aaron. Which... Is often not the case here. Comments aren't very searchable, most of 'em aren't even indexed, and they can and are deleted at the drop of a hat. If you can put a succinct, compelling warning in a comment, go right ahead - but don't pin all of your hopes on that. And as soon as you post a second comment... Consider that you're probably wasting your time by saying anything further. – Shog9 Feb 27 '18 at 20:52
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    There's a lot of misleading stuff on the internet - pays to have a discerning mind. We can't save everyone or have a thesis over every wrong. – user57 Feb 27 '18 at 21:24
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    @YvetteColomb wrote "We can't save everyone or have a thesis over every wrong." Correct. But we can put a simple little comment on a Stack Exchange post that we just read. – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 22:50
  • Highly upvoted comments are visible without the need to expand the comment section. Isn't that so that they point out useful elements about a post? (including its flaws) Isn't this a way that is used all the time on SO to point out security flaws, bad design, etc? Isn't it useful to visitors? – Fermi paradox Feb 28 '18 at 5:43
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    Yeah, that's the theory, @fermi. OTOH, I said that in my last comment on this post, which is currently the most highly voted comment on this post, and you completely missed it... So maybe not such a great theory. – Shog9 Feb 28 '18 at 5:47
  • @Shog9 top comments being missed doesn't disprove it, it merely shows it doesn't work 100% of the time, which is fine. (for the record i read your comment yesterday, but didn't reread it today). Both in your comment and answer, you downplay the effectiveness of top comments. Also, useful comments being deleted is a problem actually, not a necessary evil. And since you agree that theoretically top comments can be useful to visitors, then we are agree that the moderation rules of this site have a drawback that many other SE sites don't. We disagree on its magnitude. – Fermi paradox Feb 28 '18 at 6:07
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    I think you're underestimating both the frequency with which comments are deleted elsewhere and posted here, @fermi. A comment on an answer on Stack Overflow stands a good chance of being one of one to three total comments; the comments that sparked this question competed with dozens. Whatever utility comments might have when used sparingly disappears in this context. – Shog9 Feb 28 '18 at 6:18
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    @Shog9 i m pretty sure you ll find value in the political demographics of SE. But be cautious of polarizing the community if you try to gather/share such data. IPS is turning into an echo-chamber. Political correctness ("everyone's feelings are super important"; more important than reality) seems to be dominant and that repels anyone disagreeing with it effectively creating an echo chamber ("there's consensus among IPS community", well yeah, it figures; dissidents left). – Fermi paradox Feb 28 '18 at 6:22
  • @Shog9 perhaps you are right, other sites have less discussion. We could have mods delete everything except 1-2 obviously useful top comments. "obviously" is very subjective though, but perhaps worth the try even on chatty-sites. (or not worth, if it causes large amount of "you deleted this because of your biases") – Fermi paradox Feb 28 '18 at 6:25
  • Observe what I did with comments on this very question, @fermi - I've moved to this approach on multiple sites when they get too numerous and become a distraction, as it allows a dedicated reader to figure out what happened without requiring an archaeology expedition from the vast majority of casual readers. And does effectively stop further comments in most cases without complaints. – Shog9 Feb 28 '18 at 15:36
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    I think you should mention in your answer that: 1.long discussion on IPS are a recurring problem, 2.could lead to this site being closed, 3.why commenting on sites like IPS won't work like in SO (where flaws are pointed out in comment and remain at the top without being deleted). And unless you find a solution on how to reduce "why my constructive and polite flaw-pointing comment was deleted", such discussions will pop up forever. – Fermi paradox Mar 1 '18 at 6:21
  • Some suggestions for that: A) change the "comments have been moved to chat" into "comments ... to chat; use comments only asking clarification; comment-policy on IPS is different than other sites [link]", B)create a canonical answer to explain exactly all the points raised so you don't always get the same complaints, C) mention that all solutions to the comment->discussion problem are bad, so you enforce the least bad, D1) (optionally) keep 1-3 constructive comments, or D2) disallow any comment (excluding clarification) and move them all to a chat room. – Fermi paradox Mar 1 '18 at 6:28
14

I think the point here is that there is a clear divide in how the community thinks this situation should be approached. The fact is though; this site operates on community consensus; not what you think is right.

There were a lot of comments discussing the particular answer you're talking about. Those got migrated to chat because it was quite a lot of discussion to basically just described the approach of other answers. At that point; it's basically one ideology against another. You're best to post an answer and see what the community thinks at that point.

As far as this specific situation goes, I do have some opinions. Personally, having worked in customer service and having worked with several personable and attractive women, the answer your talking about seemed to align very well with what I've seen. Generally you're supposed to be very nice to customers and treat them in a way that may mislead others into thinking you're interested. If you're a regular customer, asking out an employee makes things very awkward going forward. Like literally to the point that there were some customers that I had to specifically avoid sitting in some sections because they would get extremely anxious about serving them.

There were also reasons given why doing basically every alternative is not a great idea; but they also provided the best approaches for those situations.

The answer to me reads as "You really shouldn't, because these things are likely to go wrong. If you do, here are my suggestions." That's why I think this particular example deserves the attention and upvotes.

In conclusion: It is clearly your opinion that this answer is bad; but your opinion does not represent everyone; and does not seem to represent the majority of people who have read the answers. You've done what you are supposed to; address your concerns in the comments and chat. It should be clear though that what you consider to be fatal flaws are not seen that way by the whole community.

I'm really not sure what else you expect them to do. The answer provides the frame challenge, supports itself, and gives plenty of information. It's also had quite a few edits to make the wording very precise for the intended message.

  • The second sentence of your first paragraph should be added to the help center page. Cogent and succinct. – user3316 Feb 26 '18 at 23:34
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    "does not seem to represent the majority of people who have read the answers" - You can't know that. This Q was in Hot, meaning that many (perhaps most) votes came from non-regular users, that don't have downvote rights. Additionally some people don't like losing rep. Lastly, first post to get upvoted tends to gather more upvotes. It's a well known phenomenon that youtube takes into consideration in its comment section. – Fermi paradox Feb 27 '18 at 5:47
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    Plus the upvotes most likely came from voters outside of Germany without noticing the Germany tag and on the assumption he lived in a city, which was not initially stated. . – Sentinel Feb 27 '18 at 7:49
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    @Sentinel That argument has somewhat less weight given that OP selected the answer as accepted, so clearly it did make sense in his context. – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 13:53
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    @EmC you forgot to ask Sentinel how they are so sure their 60 upvotes are made by German people only, how did they add that restriction to the upvote button? I'm very sure I saw at least one UK resident leaving a comment stating they upvoted because they could confirm 'it worked in the UK'. – Tinkeringbell Feb 27 '18 at 13:59
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – John Feb 28 '18 at 22:57
8

Vote

If you disagree with a post, you can also downvote it.

Comment

If you have specific suggestions for an answer, leave a comment.

This is not an answer to the question.

That comment does not make a suggestion, it's just a statement that would have perfectly served as flag instead.

Flag

Comments are not meant for big arguments. If you think a post is problematic, flag it as Not an answer and let the moderating community handle it.

Meta

If you absolutely must discuss a specific post, create a question on meta, for example: Does this answer violate the "be nice" policy?

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    I am reluctant to go straight to flagging. I feel OA ought to be given a chance to improve the answer. As things are, passions became very intense very quickly (not by me) and this was used an excuse to delete all discussion. OP never saw any of it. Your point about "does not answer the question is nit a comment" is a go – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 26 '18 at 21:52
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    I've deleted the comments after folks starting calling each other trolls, members of cliques, etc. Please keep comments relevant to the answers you're commenting under; if you start making comments about other comments, things are probably going off the rails. – HDE 226868 Feb 27 '18 at 19:57
  • As @Harper said, there is an order in which things should be done. You might want to use such an order in your answer, JAD. For normal situations: comment, then vote and/or meta, then flag. Under normal situations (not outright trolling, spamming, etc.) posters should always be given the opportunity to improve their post and given help before all else. I do agree with what you've said within your comment section (all sections, really); just suggesting a re-order. You might also want to add a section for "Chat" – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 21:06
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    "If you disagree with a post, you can also downvote it." No. This is how it works on meta. Downvoting on the main site should be kept for low quality answers, blatantly wrong answers or those providing "dangerous" suggestions. – Andrea Lazzarotto Mar 2 '18 at 17:31
7

Generally speaking, comments are for requesting improvement or clarification.

So, if you think someone's answer needs work, you should probably stick to improvement suggestions. Meaning, do not debate the validity of an answer in the comments, instead leave opportunities for improvement.

Since I'm not the authority of what comments are for, here is the relevant excerpt from the site rules:

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

What you want to do would probably fall under constructive criticism. An example of how to do this could be

I think that {argument point} of your answer could use some improvement because {counterpoint}. Maybe you can {suggestion}.

Now, the important part is that you can't just write "this is bad and you're an extremist and should feel bad. In particular comments should not be used to:

Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!"); instead, down-vote (and provide or up-vote a better answer if appropriate);

If you think an answer is just bad and the answerer should be ashamed of themselves for writing it - hold that and downvote instead. That's what downvotes are for. Comments aren't for blasting answerers for answering.

Also, comments should not:

Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead;

You're supposed to take that to chat. A moderator may move the conversation to chat - as happened with the comments underneath Tinkeringbell's answer you provide as an example here. You can debate your viewpoint to your heart's content there (provided you continue to stay nice - SE is not a place for flinging insults).

For

Discussion of community behavior or site policies; please use meta instead.

This place, meta, is for discussion about site policy.

So in summary, there are avenues for the discussion you want to have, but they aren't comments, which is why yours got removed from the post.

3

Leave a comment.

You must be careful to abide by the rules here, but you can still make your opinion heard if you phrase your disagreement as a suggestion to improve.

Instead of

It seems like saying that would make him feel embarrassed.

say

It seems like saying that would make him feel embarrassed. Could you explain why that isn't the case?


Note: Critiquing a post seems to be acceptable behavior on SE in general, just not in IPS according to how things have been moderated here. The following is a canned response for flagging Low Quality Posts (with my emphasis):

To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post.”

quote screenshot

  • 1
    Sad how an answer that specifically quotes SE's own rule, and a reasonable one at that, that it prompts you with and elaborates a little on that would have a negative score. – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 21:13
  • Another symptom.... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 21:44
  • Where did you find that "quote from flag text"? I don't see that anywhere in the flags. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 21:59
  • @BlackThorn Do you know which SE's use that? AFAIK that's not a standard statement across all SE's, physics for example says "This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker." for these situations AFAIK. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 22:08
  • @BlackThorn I have no idea where you're referring to then. I don't see that in the "Flag" box for any site, nor have I seen it show up as a comment after flagging. Can you provide a screenshot or something of where you're talking about. I've just never seen that, so I don't really understand the context it appears in. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 22:17
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  • @Shog9 Is that generic across all SE sites? AFAIK physics.SE didn't have that when I checked the LQP over there like 20 minutes ago. (somewhat) Sadly I only had one in queue so I can't confirm that I didn't just miss it. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 22:25
  • It's context-sensitive, @JMac: it won't show up in cases where it's unlikely to be relevant, and has different text if the author can't leave a comment. – Shog9 Feb 27 '18 at 22:26
  • @JMac regardless if it is on physics.se, it is on THIS site, where this meta discussion is occurring. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 22:28
  • Constructive critique is perfectly fine in comments. They generally get deleted when it turns into "Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point; please use chat instead" which the comment page suggests should be taken to chat. That's exactly what happens in these scenarios. It makes sense. If the critique were obvious enough that it doesn't really warrant discussion, you wouldn't need to debate in comments; and the community should react to that. If your critique leads to a longer debate; it makes sense that... – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 22:37
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    @JMac totally agree. Now go and post "constructive critique" on a few answers and see how long they last. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 22:39
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    @JMac I'm not saying that every single one is deleted, but since I don't have access to deleted comments I can't show you the mountain of constructively critical posts that have been deleted. I'm not even talking about mine, or even just HNQ. I will often see a comment that politely articulates a flaw, and come back later to discover it is conspicuously gone. One of the mods has said many many times in and out of meta that a critical comment without a suggestion or call for clarification will be deleted. Pay attention and you'll see it. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 22:51
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    @BlackThorn Well, only constructive criticisms are supposed to be on topic for comments. Being critical without really letting them know what can be improved is not useful. Sometimes even constructive criticisms get deleted because of the nature of comments being transient. At the end of the day, SE policy is very clear that there's no assurance your comments will last 5 seconds, let alone real amounts of time. Comment removal is just par for the course on SE. You can always try to take that up on meta; but generally the practice isn't frowned on by the wider community. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 22:55
  • 2
    @JMac thanks for that. I understand all of that. This is meta. We're discussing it. And I disagree that criticism cannot be constructive without explicitly prescribing how to fix it. The quote I provided says critique which according to my dictionary doesn't even mean you have to provide any clear path to fixing it. It just means you are assessing the post, good or bad. If that is technically allowed here, it certainly hasn't been allowed in practice. You read my answer and disagreed with it. Let's move on. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 23:02
  • 2
    @BlackThorn That's what the second part was trying to address. Even constructive critique can be removed to deleted completely if it is in comments; because they are designed that way. Comments aren't permanent. I have seen constructive critique without explicit suggestions in practice here by the way; just usually it spirals into a discussion because they are all opinions. That's what leads to comment migration. Also worth noting I didn't disagree with this answer. I had literally never seen that quote, that's why I got involved in these comments. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 23:11
3

Uh-oh, someone on the internet is wrong!

Someone is wrong on the internet

So what do we do now? Assuming that the post in question was written in good faith and you just think it needs some T.L.C. or maybe a warning to future readers, and if you're on Stack Exchange, this would be the appropriate course of events...

Step 1) Leave a comment

This comment must be all of the following:

  1. Polite

    • note: Some people will unfortunately mistake forcefulness (ie: "This answer is dangerous and could result in dragons devouring your children! Do not do what this answer says!") for rudeness, so be careful in how strongly you present yourself.
  2. Self-contained (ie: does not require a discussion to break out in comment)

    • It is possible that a discussion might result. Sometimes it is necessary, especially when the poster does not understand your comment and needs to ask for clarification about your comment. However!... Try to keep your comment such that it could stand on its own as well as possible, and hope that it does so.
  3. Constructive

    • The comment should provide some actionable statement. Whether that action would be the poster editing their post, or future readers avoiding step N in the answer because it causes a security hole, or readers avoid the answer altogether... whatever the case, if the comment is not directly actionable then question your phrasing of the comment (or question whether the comment is even necessary).

    • Notice my above example which warns that dragons will eat your children. A more serious example of that could be: Q: "How do I know if my gun is jammed or just malfunctioning?" A: "Step 1: Turn it around and look carefully down the barrel to see if there is anything blocking the way. Step 2: ..." Comment on answer: "Beware! If your firearm is malfunctioning, it can be very dangerous to put your eye up to the barrel. This has led to death without proper precautions. (links to some articles where people died from this)" In this case, commenter should also start crafting an edit to the answer, which hopefully will be accepted (though that is not guaranteed).

    • Another example: A: "You need to attach the widget to the sprocket." Comment: "On all new models, you also need to make sure that the widget is at a specific angle which depends on the model. You should probably include some notes about that; here is the relevant material: (link to information for the answerer to consider)"

    • An example that works more closely with OP's intents here (though personally I don't think it applies to the question OP referenced): Comment: "This used to be the preferred methodology for first aid in that situation, but that method was shown to have possible links to cancer. There is now an entirely different method which has been proven both more effective and to definitely not cause cancer. Nobody uses the method in this answer anymore: readers be warned. Poster, you may want to either delete your answer or modify it in some way to indicate that this is not a preferred technique if it can be avoided."

Step 2) Further discussion is needed

How you engage in further discussion depends on whether the poster is trying work with you to improve their post or if the discussion needs to be brought to the attention of others.

If the poster (or others on the poster's behalf) is working with you, move the extended discussion to chat. Unfortunately, you might have to make multiple comments before that option shows up. We have multiple feature requests in to allow us to move a discussion to chat before the automated "Would you like to move this to chat?" link shows up, but that is not making any progress that I am aware of. So a few back-and-forth comments must be tolerated because of the shortcoming of the system, but after that, click "move to chat" when it shows up.

If the extended discussion is not something asking for clarification or helping to improve the post, but rather requires some other (usually more drastic) form of action, then make a meta post.

Step 3) All else failed: Bring down the hammer

If step 1 and step 2 are not sufficient to remedy the problem, and if the post is of such a nature that its existence is an offense to Stack Exchange, then it is time to vote/flag for more drastic action. NOTE! This should not necessarily be done just because the post offends you personally; you must try to put yourself in the other persons' shoes and be tolerant of good-faith posts. Drastic action should be reserved for truly, non-subjectively, factually negative posts.

That's it

That's what we have available to us. If the issue somehow does not fit well into this paradigm, then do your best within the framework provided, but be aware that legalists abound on Stack Exchange who are likely to ticket you for jay-walking.

If you do not feel comfortable acting on your own and want other opinions first, or to get someone else to act on your behalf (which is often needed since many of us cannot do things like vote to close), then make a meta discussion post.

  • 6
    See, perfect example right here. I have a down-vote and I don't know what is wrong with my post. I have some ideas: maybe someone doesn't like that I included "leave a comment," or maybe they thought my intro section title was rude because they don't know the reference... the point is, I don't know because no comment was left. So I can feel free to ignore the down-vote and assume it was done by some inconsiderate drive-by down-voter who doesn't give a hoot rather than someone who found some legitimate problem with the answer. – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 22:43
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    Or you could take it as someone who found something legitimately wrong with your answer and didn't want to be berated for explaining (as seems to be the most common response to those types of comments). But I actually do like this one, so +1 – user3316 Feb 28 '18 at 21:59
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    Whether that action would be the poster editing their post, or future readers avoiding step N in the answer because it causes a security hole, or readers avoid the answer altogether.. If you can suggest an edit to include the how or why something works, by all means leave a comment. If you think step N is unclear, leave a comment asking for clarification on step N. Do not start arguing in comments that step N is bad, don't state in comments that you think step N is bad. If all you have to say is 'Step N is bad', you've degraded yourself to the person in your comic. 1/2 – Tinkeringbell Mar 1 '18 at 9:47
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    If you want to tell readers to avoid step N or the answer alltogether, that's not what comments are for. That's where you start writing your own answer. You can take a look at the answer Shog posted here on how to do it. That's what earns you my downvote, since on meta we vote on policies we agree with or not. I disagree with your proposed policy, so I downvoted. If it's not what you meant, please feel free to edit it or try to explain it to me. 2/2. – Tinkeringbell Mar 1 '18 at 9:47
  • @Tinkeringbell I think you are misunderstanding what I said there, as I specifically said that the comment needs to be both actionable and self-contained such that a mere "Step N is bad" is a bad comment by my points above, which means that I explicitly said the same thing that you said here. I will try to make it more clear by adding clarification and perhaps some more serious examples than my "dragons will eat your children." If you can think of any other ways it could be more clear that I am saying the same thing you are, please let me know. – Aaron Mar 1 '18 at 16:58
  • @Tinkeringbell I have added examples under the "Constructive" bullet point to make it more obvious. All of the examples I have provided therein are specifically in line with SE policy on comment usage. If I can improve the answer further, please advise again. – Aaron Mar 1 '18 at 17:16
1

One way to have that discussion is to create a question on meta about that post. That creates a place where the topic is that specific post, so the discussion can be properly focused.

Another way is to create a more general meta discussion, not about a specific post, but about the underlying issue. For this reason I have created the following post so we can hash out what exactly we expect from frame challenges, in the past and those yet to be posted.

I invite you all to chime in.

  • 1
    Well done. I feel reluctant to create a mirror question on meta for every answer I would like to discuss. It feels like it breaks the discussion and notification mechanisms as they exist in literally every other SE where that is ordinarily done in comments (granted I don't know how it's done in politics and skeptics SE). – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 20:12
  • 1
    @Harper I'm not sure, but I hope JAD is not suggesting that you create one to mirror every post that needs addressing. Just when it needs much more discussing than is appropriate in comments. – Aaron Feb 27 '18 at 21:11
-6

This site is becoming a lost cause. The meta and moderator community simply don't address the issues and act only to further their own moral agenda without a philosophically neutral stance.

The answer to this question is that in the present format, S.E. cannot function for this kind of subject matter. No consensus can be formed, and the moderator/meta community has been hijacked by a clique of puritans with a cultural bias.

What needs to happen is that the owners/operators of S.E need to get involved and alter the rules. If anyone has any contacts/avenues/suggestions on how best to do this, in all honesty I think this would be the most positive way to address the situation and improve S.E.

  • 11
    You get what you put in. An awful lot of folks showed up here expecting their PoV to be lauded and everyone else's to be cast into darkness, and were sorely disappointed to find that they had to defend their own and demonstrate the problems in other's. If you don't work together to establish rules and practices, you find those rules and practices established to exclude you. – Shog9 Feb 27 '18 at 20:12
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    Do you understand the notion of "community driven"? That is how SE sites function. If the community seems to be in favour of a specific ideology, then expect the votes to reflect that. I'm not sure how moderation could solve the problem. Then it would just turn into moderator biases instead of community ones. I'd much rather have our quality dictated by the full community instead of just moderators. – JMac Feb 27 '18 at 20:14
  • 2
    @shog9 no. You "get what you put in" on other stacks. Here, it's "down the rabbit hole". Of course we don't expect our PoV's to be lauded; but that kind of objectification, stooping down to us to explain how SE works - is very typical here. And it's laughable: we know how other stacks work: not like here. Anyone who questions the order here gets hits with ad-hominem attacks like that at lightspeed. You just don't get that on other stacks. This stack is the anomaly. We are trying to warn you. SMH. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 20:21
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    You don't have to tell me it's an anomaly, @Harper. I consider it pretty close to a religion site vs. the sorts of practical HOWTO sites that we all know & love. That doesn't mean it can't work - it just means it takes a lot more work. A good portion of the folks answering in this thread have raised more or less the same objections in the past because they didn't like one answer or another & wanted an easy way to be rid of it; they got the same answer. – Shog9 Feb 27 '18 at 20:24
  • @Shog9 it's not as simple as "my ox got gored today therefore let's go to meta and complain". Heck, I didn't do a thing to make this thread about structural issues in the stack. That subject just keeps coming up, and keeps being treated as an unexplainable series of definitely unrelated anomalies. I've been parts of online communities since using Compuserve to dial into The Well. I have never seen a forum like this. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 21:51
  • 2
    I have, @Harper - because we tried something like three variations of this topic prior to this one, and they all ended up being even worse. At least there are some questions here that aren't fundamentally creepy. But of course, most of the meta discussion boils down to, "How can we host this trainwreck of a question without it continuing to be a trainwreck?" - so there's naturally a lot of trying to ignore the obvious. – Shog9 Feb 27 '18 at 21:56
  • 1
    @Shog9 Could you elaborate on the trainwreck stuff a bit? I am confused. Have I answered a bad question that should have been closed? I know we did close 'does this mean she's interested in me' a few times, but I genuinely thought this was a 'good' question in that it already included that assumption. Are such questions just always going to be trainwrecks that we need to learn to live with, and will always require heavy moderation? Or should they not be moderated at all, just so anyone can see what a trainwreck it actually is? – Tinkeringbell Feb 28 '18 at 7:54
  • 3
    Somewhere else I compared these to food safety questions, @tinkering - if you're into sous vide, curing, cheese-making, etc then asking about time at temp makes a good question, but if you just forgot and left a refrigerated ingredient sitting on the table over night the only safe answer is "don't eat it". This class of question may be well-intentioned, but if the asker has to ask at all then they kinda already know the answer and are hoping they're wrong; the controversy arises because a bunch of other people also hope that they're wrong. – Shog9 Feb 28 '18 at 15:30
  • 1
    @Shog9 would a question that takes a step back and asks, for instance, "should I ask the lady cashier out", rather than, "I've decided I'm going to try this, how can I best do this", be less controversial and perhaps better for the site? "Should ... " type of questions seem likely to be closed, though, since it asks the community to make a decision for them ... – D.Hutchinson Feb 28 '18 at 19:35
  • 7
    Maybe... Maybe stop thinking about this as "how can I ask how to find a mate on IPS without actually asking that" and start thinking about where you're struggling to communicate, @D.Hutchinson. Are you having trouble evaluating others' reactions? Gauging the tone of public interactions? Making smalltalk? Conveying your mood? Buying groceries? Whatever it is you're struggling with, I suspect it's affecting a lot more than such a question would imply, much less be able to address - so drop the Rom-Com setups and get to the point. – Shog9 Mar 1 '18 at 0:36
-6

Let's assume for the sake of argument that you have an issue with the following:

this was the least offensive way someone ever 'shopped' for me

(implies that all ways are offensive)

Previous edit (removed but still caused some comments):

She's working, and since she's working as a cashier and not a prostitute, her job description doesn't involve being picked up by random guys. The only thing that those jobs have in common is that they require the worker to be nice to their customer (most of the times). This is, of course, an exaggeration, but I hope you do get the point

(comparing flirting to prostitution/sexual abuse is extremely offensive and damaging to youth)

Overreaction that you "must not complain about":

your number might end up in the bin with a dramatic gesture [...] you might be labeled a creep and denied access to the store, depending on how much this tends to upset her. If you get declined, however rudely, don't go complaining.

(justifying unrestrained unwarranted aggression over a ... "want to know you here is my number"-note; not all courtrooms would take lightly a "you are a creep!" in the above scenario; a simple firm "no" is a better option)

So, how do you explain all that without commenting?

On other SE sites:

You'd leave a comment, and down vote such answers.

You could also leave a better answer on the question, showing the correct answer. Make sure you include a good explanation as to why the other option should not be used.

On this site however ...

When we say that comments need to "ask for clarification" - we mean that.

Your comment is an argument. It's stating your preferred action and why the answer is wrong. This is not asking for clarification. This is non-productive.

... you can't.

This goes against what happens on (perhaps all) other SE sites. Even on sites like Worldbuilding where answers can be based on fantasy, people are allowed to disagree constructively in comments.

Downvoting: Lots of users suggest posting your own answer or downvoting (DV). This has minimal (often negligible) effect on the parts of the answer that were wrong. Firstly, many (if not most) votes on Hot questions come from non-regular visitors that most likely have no DV rights. So DV is impossible.

Answering: when a problematic answer has 100 score would mean your answer is in the bottom, and the odds of being read are smaller than the answers at the top. Youtube has similar issues with its comments. If they simply let highest voted comments remain at the top, then you'd rarely see new comments. This is fixed by their sorting algorithms, which however don't exist on SE sites. (no, the option to sort from newest to oldest isn't how YT works..)

Criticism or removal of wrong/harmful points can't happen by posting my own answer. Some users will never even know that those points were wrong without highly upvoted comments that state them.

Yes, all the above could theoretically have an effect, but in our real world scenario they will most likely have no effect. Insisting that the above are a solution to the problem is wishful thinking.

Therefore, there is currently no easy way to tell an answerer that you think their answer needs work. Your comments will most likely be deleted.


Sidenote

To clarify my answer based on comments here (and some offensive comments I've seen in IPS chat):

  • I am NOT saying that the poster has issues. I don't hate him either.

  • I don't disagree with the solutions the poster suggests. On the contrary I agree with most of them.

  • I don't want the answer deleted, or forcefully edited.

  • Rejecting someone that's flirting is perfectly fine (duh); calling security over someone insulting, making a scene, acting in a strange way, etc, is perfectly fine. (there are infinite strawman arguments of this type, can't address them all, sorry)

Also, if you disagree with my answer, feel free to comment and point out what you disagree with. If I am wrong on something, I'd love to hear it. Criticizing wrong ideas is why we don't still worship rocks. So please correct me.

  • 4
    The problem with this is ... personal opinion counts very little on the SE site. Your opinion is limited to your vote and voice. You don't get to "remove problematic points" from an answer if they don't violate community guidelines. If they do, flag. If they don't, then your only option to remove those from view is post a better answer or cast your downvote and hope enough people do the same. I realize this might be unsatisfying to you, but that's all that SE allows. – mag Feb 27 '18 at 12:14
  • 2
    "I realize this might be unsatisfying to you, but that's all that SE allows" - no, actually that's completely fine. I don't demand that those points are removed (will edit to clarify). I'm saying that either they are fixed, or a highly upvoted "this is wrong because X" comment is right under the answer. As for my only option, as i said above, it has no effect on the majority of cases. – Fermi paradox Feb 27 '18 at 12:41
  • 1
    "Criticism or removal of wrong/harmful points can't happen by posting my own answer...." I respectfully disagree. I've seen plenty of answers here on IPS that say "I disagree with answer X, on the basis of Y. I would instead like to suggest option Z, on the basis of A." Granted, people may only read answer X and not your answer Z, but that's on them, not you. There is in fact an option to sort answers from newest to oldest, instead of highest-voted to lowest-voted. – F1Krazy Feb 27 '18 at 12:56
  • 2
    @Magisch In your answer you mention that comments can be used to: "Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post". So i m confused as to why you would assume that i want to "remove problematic points" rather than the author "improving" it themselves. Also, since you believe that IPS would allow such comments, can you help me phrase any of my above issues in a comment in their answer? – Fermi paradox Feb 27 '18 at 13:04
  • 2
    @F1Krazy The controversial answer is correct on so many points. Why would I post a new answer? The problem is the flaws I mentioned. "I've seen plenty of answers here on IPS [..]" - from my experience, top answers can remain at the top forever. Even when they are proven wrong by facts. Also, I agree that it's possible through DV, other answers to fix the problem, but its not probable. – Fermi paradox Feb 27 '18 at 13:08
  • 4
    @Fermiparadox comments aren't there to be right underneath the answer to point out it has flaws - that's sidestepping the voting system. Your way of telling the world "I think this is insufficient" is a downvote, improbable as that might be. – mag Feb 27 '18 at 13:35
  • 2
    While I applaud an answer which isn't built on a foundation of belittling or ascribing motive to others, I would like to mention that the purpose of this question is not to critique the answer I am presumptively talking about. The wheel turns, you know. If I'd posted this next week everyone would assume I was talking about a different question. That is on purpose on my part. I aim to improve how the community deals with criticism. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 16:46
  • 3
    And btw, that meta you linked about "this is bad advice" comments was my post - believe me, I get annoyed with the comment moderation here too. But I've accepted that this is how the site is run and that I have to play by the rules. If you want to comment whatever you like, wherever you like, SE is not the place for you. (I'm not passing judgment: I post on other sites too, precisely because I know there are certain things I can't do here.) – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 16:49
  • 3
    @EmC note: That is how it works here because 3 elected mods (1 really) have made it that way. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 17:15
  • 4
    @BlackThorn .. plus all the other users who commented / answered that post agreeing with that view, and all the other users who upvoted them. If there is a strong faction who thought those sorts of comments should be allowed they were not visible on that meta post at all.. – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 17:26
  • 4
    @EmC at the risk of sounding conspiratorial, it is easier to survive on IPS and spend time on meta if you agree with the way the mods handle this site. I come and go because I get fed up with it sometimes. – BlackThorn Feb 27 '18 at 17:31
  • 3
    @BlackThorn I help certain types of businesses succeed. I often find myself dealing with people who would rather be kings of a shabby kingdom than dukes of a fine one. It is death to the underlying business... But they would much rather hand the keys to the sheriff while singing "at least, I did it myyy wayyy". Often these people are "elected", better at schmoozing than running a business. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 27 '18 at 19:48
  • 3
    @Aaron there would be a problem if they were implementing policies that they knew were controversial from the start, but I haven't seen evidence of that here. A silent majority (or significant minority) is a different sort of problem, where we need to get more people to speak up while we're shaping policies, instead of only complaining after the fact. – Em C Feb 27 '18 at 23:14
  • 3
    @Harper "I aim to improve how the community deals with criticism" - I don't think it's possible. From the looks of it this place is turning into an echo-chamber where the only allowed frequency is "political correctness". What i find so funny about this correctness, is that it's more of a dictatorship. It's yet another dominance struggle; liberals try to exert control by deciding what's allowed. Dissidents simply don't bother and leave, since they are treated rudely. – Fermi paradox Feb 28 '18 at 8:23
  • 3
    @Aaron I think you're misinterpreting the tag. Questions with the discussion tag should be discussions, in a sense, but those discussions should primarily be a dialogue involving answers. Long comment chains aren't a part of that format; that's not the sort of discussion meta's for. – HDE 226868 Feb 28 '18 at 21:31

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