I'm a little confused about all the fuss over something that I wrote in an answer today:

First off, I'd like to apologise for the onslaught of crap responses you've already received and those that'll likely be rolling in over the next few days. It's an unfortunate reality of talking about these things online and unfortunately IPS is no exception.

This was written based on my experiences using the internet, and my experiences using IPS. Way too often when someone from a minority group brings up an issue, they get an onslaught of rather crappy responses from people and it looked, to me, like that was already playing out in the comments section of the question I answered. I thought it worthwhile to extend some empathy and an apology on behalf of the community.

I realize that there are those that don't see it that way, and I realize that there are those who would prefer to quietly delete those responses and pretend like they weren't seen and didn't upset or offend anyone. But having been on the receiving end more than once, I understand that those comments are seen, and do offend.

Like it or not, it's hard to talk about some things on the internet. One can't really talk about being treated unfairly without someone stepping in and treating you unfairly. And that's kinda crappy. It really bothers me when I see this in communities that I'm a member of, so I tried to address that as gently as I could at the time.

What I found a little baffling was the message that I received after I rolled back the edit removing my apology:

apaul, if you have issues, take it up on meta. DO NOT use your answer to attack other answers or the other users on this site. – Catija♦ 36 mins ago

I don't see how I attacked other users or their answers. I was referring to some of the comments that had already rolled in, and the ones that usually follow in these situations. I didn't call anyone out directly, by name, or otherwise. I just made a sincere apology to someone who appeared to be catching an awful lot of noise, aggravation, and needless moderation.

Basically it looked to me like we, as a community, handled the question poorly and an apology seemed to be in order. Why such an apology was so offensive that it needed to be removed is beyond me, so here I am taking it to meta as instructed.

I've opted to roll back the edit in protest, and I'm happy to accept the resulting consequences.


I clarified what I originally wrote as the opener for that answer, based on some of the responses here. It has once again been removed and the post has once again been locked. I fully realize that I'm breaking the rules, but I also realize that sometimes the rules should be broken.

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    apaul, please tell me how pointing at other users' responses and calling them "crap" meets "be nice"... In any stretch of the imagination. Just because you think that it's true does not give you carte blache to say it. – Catija Apr 11 '18 at 20:20
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    @Catija Can you, in good conscience, say it isn't true? – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 20:25
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    What I think is irrelevant. What you think is irrelevant. If it's not nice, you don't get to say it. – Catija Apr 11 '18 at 20:26
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    @apaul I agree with you that the OP got a lot of needless, "crap" comments. Let's assume for a second that our interpretation of that situation is unilaterally true. Even so, calling it out in your answer is not productive. Answers are for answering the question and nothing else. – Rainbacon Apr 11 '18 at 20:32
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    ....................... why the downvotes? seems like a perfectly reasonable question to me. – user428517 Apr 11 '18 at 21:23
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    @sgroves Downvotes on meta can also be an expression of agreement or disagreement with the position espoused by the OP. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 21:26
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    One thing is that it probably wasn't a real apology. Do you feel culpable for the hurtful and inaccurate things that other people on this site might say? Do you think that you didn't do enough to head them off, or made some kind? If so, then an apology might be in order, but 1) in chat, not an an answer, and , I think, 2) for what you think you did wrong. Or are you irritated with them and want to criticize them? I can't see deleted comments, but I bet some of them would justify some irritation. But putting it in the answer is not being nice, and it's a bit unnecessary? – Obie 2.0 Apr 11 '18 at 23:33
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    Or is it just general commiseration, like "Sorry you broke your arm," where you don't feel responsible? That's still not an apology, even if it has the word "sorry" in it, and again, it still seems to take shots at other users even if that wasn't your intent. – Obie 2.0 Apr 11 '18 at 23:35
  • @Catija I take it that you didn't like the more specific version either. – apaul Apr 13 '18 at 15:28
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    It seems to me the tool we are given to indicate we think an answer is crap is the downvote. Time to go on a voting spree. – GregJarm Apr 17 '18 at 2:25

I rolled back the edit and locked the answer to give us a chance to talk about it here. To be clear, the bit in contention is not an apology despite the words "I'd like to apologise". Instead, that's meta commentary on the other answers and answerers. So I kinda have a hard time with the premise of this meta question.

If you have a problem with other answers, vote them down.

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    @apaul: The fauxpology is an easy mistake to make. I'm pretty sure I made it a few minutes ago in an unrelated context. To me at least, this comes off as a rhetorical strategy rather than anything heartfelt. Insisting that it remain reinforces that impression. – Jon Ericson Apr 11 '18 at 22:53
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    Basically I'm at a point where I'm tired of people trying to equate "Sorry that people said crappy things to you" or even "stop saying crappy things" with actually saying crappy things. If SE wants to make these things morally equivalent, or just equally "not nice" then I probably don't belong here and I'll gladly take a timeout in the penalty box for saying so. – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 22:56
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    I think "What's wrong with apologizing?" is a misleading question. I think pre-apologising for crap you haven't seen yet is unnecessary and obnoxious. I think if you've come to the point where you think that sort of thing is necessary, I little time off would probably do you some good. – Jon Ericson Apr 11 '18 at 23:02
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    Have you visited the site often enough to be aware that there's some identifiable patterns and that rude comments are pretty common on questions like that? – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 23:06
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    "I realize that there are those who would prefer to quietly delete those responses and pretend like they weren't seen" – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 23:29
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    @apaul No one (I hope) is saying that what you put in your answer was nearly as bad as the comments you were responding to, just that it was bad enough to avoid putting it in your answer. – Obie 2.0 Apr 11 '18 at 23:42
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    @apaul Quietly deleting these responses is what we're supposed to do. Our goal isn't to provide the best and most reassuring experience for OP, the goal is to build high quality Q/A. Meta commentary on the formation of a particular question or answer is noise detracting from that. Ideally, after we're done with this mess and things have settled down, all that should be left is a as helpful as possible question and as helpful as possible answers with no chit chat or commentary leftover. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 7:09
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    @Reid No-one who isn't a Mod, CM or Developer has the ability to see deleted comments. – sphennings Apr 12 '18 at 11:13
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    @sphennings on IPS that isn't strictly speaking true. The IPS comment bot keeps a permanent archive of all posted comments barring exceptional circumstances. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 11:14
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    @apaul The problem they were trying to address was a way for them to talk to people about how they don't want to talk about race relations. How does a problem you percieve with this whole site follow from that? The question they asked is very specific and narrow (necessarily so to be on topic) and does not include a broader discussion about how online communities react. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 13:57
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    On a side note, and I'm sure you're not intending this @apaul but the "You guys all disagreeing shows there's a problem even more" line of reasoning is likely to upset people rather then convince them and in my experience wholly uneffective to affect any change you want to affect, all it does is cultivate tensions and preventing disagreeing parties from talking to each other to resolve that disagreement. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 13:59
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    "The problem they were trying to address was a way for them to talk to people about how they don't want to talk about race relations." And then a number of people made an effort to soften their language, deny their experiences, and generally engage in a crap discussion about race relations. @Magisch – apaul Apr 12 '18 at 14:05
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    Softening their expression and making the question less contentious is a normal and expected feature of SE's process. I'm not sure how that is indicative of any problem here. This is by nature a site where we collaborate to create high quality q/a and we have a convention and rule to keep bigotry and content likely to offend large swaths of people out of our discourse here. If you have issues with how edits were applied in this case, meta is there for that. And the crap discussions were (as they should be) moved to chat / deleted. @apaul – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 14:08
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    @Magisch it's not so much that the question was edited, but why the question was edited. People really seemed to not like the implications of the user's experience and there were some pretty obvious biases. I guess it comes down to how you see "high quality" Q/A and what you believe is an acceptable approach to getting there. I flatly don't think that one was handled well. When I see thinly veiled racism, in the form of petty editing and community moderation, I think we've failed at producing high quality. We shouldn't be sending the message that it's ok to hassle users to appease bigots. – apaul Apr 12 '18 at 14:19
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    @apaul I think you're a bit steeped in your perspective here. I obviously can't convince you, but consider that labeling everyone who takes offense to being shoved in a bucket because of their skin color a bigot is crossing into not nice territory pretty hard and blatantly and I'll stop this discussion there. You know my stance on the meta issue discussed here. Good day. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 14:20

The apology isn't the problem it's the remarks about other reactions to the question that lead to it getting removed.

On it's own an apology in an answer is rather innocuous. It's just extra noise in the post that can easily be ignored, but expresses sympathy for the OP.

Your apology was more than just apology though it was a jab at other people's behavior in the question's comments.

There were a lot of unnecessary comments on that post. Most of them seemed more interested in expressing their displeasure with the question than anything constructive. I share similar feelings to you as to their quality. That doesn't excuse calling them "crap responses". It's not very nice to do so.

This was explained in the edit that removed it from your post:

Calling the other responses "crap" and blaming the internet is neither necessary, or constructive toward answering the question

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    I think that it was absolutely relevant to the question and answer. A user asked a question about how to deal with the aggravation caused by a behavior, and got an abundance of the exact sort of behavior that they were frustrated with as a response. Perhaps "crap" wasn't the best word to use, but it seemed appropriate and much softer than my first thoughts... – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 20:36
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    @apaul I sympathize with your frustration with that question. I was pretty frustrated with it myself. That was not a good first exposure to IPS. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 20:40
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    @apaul yeah, I found that humorously ironic. – BlackThorn Apr 11 '18 at 20:51
  • In addition to this, I think you can rely on the community here to flag bad comments, or delete or edit out irrelevant text, so that eventually a clean Q&A remains. In other words: there is not much need to address the 'crap'. Doing so only adds noise. – user10085 Jul 24 '18 at 9:27

First off, I'd like to apologise for the onslaught of crap responses you've already received and those that'll likely be rolling in over the next few days. It's an unfortunate reality of talking about these things online and unfortunately IPS is no exception.

That right here is incredibly patronizing and unnecessary.

An apology itself isn't problematic or rude, but you're tacitly painting our community as a hostile place.

But all right. Lets assume the best faith here. You didn't mean to insult anyone and this is just innocous. It still should be edited out of your answer, because it is meta-commentary and not actually a part of answering the question. It is common to remove noise from both questions and answers. Salutations and thanks fall under that just as meta commentary on the state of the community does. If you want to raise that, here is the appropriate place.

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    You predicted the "crapstorm" seems like you're aware of the hostility on the site. – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 21:45
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    @apaul I was aware a huge discussion about this would happen. That does not mean that high reputation users like you or me need to be fanning the flames. I expect a lot from you, you're our top user by reputation and very active on the site. If the regulars don't lead by example, who will? – magisch Apr 11 '18 at 21:46
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    Sometimes a stand should be taken. I said what I said, and I stand by it. – apaul Apr 11 '18 at 21:47
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    @apaul I would submit that an answer is the wrong place to take a stand on the state of this community. You're not helping by not abiding the community guidelines. Other people will think "If even the top user doesn't, why should I?" We're still all in this together first and foremost to create high quality useful Q/A and not to make opinions known as loud and grand as possible. – magisch Apr 11 '18 at 21:51
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    I'm glad that your answer focuses on the fact that the text being discussed was just noise on the answer. I did the initial edit on the answer primarily because it was noise rather than because it wasn't particularly nice as the other answers here mention. I was going to post my own answer to this meta, but I think you and sphennings did a good job of covering all my points. – Rainbacon Apr 12 '18 at 4:13
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    "but you're tacitly painting our community as a hostile place." It downright is (my opinion). Many other SE communities are also (again, my opinion). – Phil Apr 12 '18 at 9:44
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    @Phil You have the right to hold that opinion, but that doesn't make expressing it any more acceptable under "be nice" or make the body of an answer on main any more the appropriate place for such expressions. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 9:46
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    This kind of attitude can only lead to nothing ever improving. One can't call out someone else's bad behavior, because it is not "nice" to do so. – Phil Apr 12 '18 at 9:49
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    @Phil You can absolutely discuss behavior. On meta. With examples. While still being nice. Nice towards the person (assume good faith and all that) while being constructively critical of behavior. If your "calling out" or criticism isn't actionable, it can't be actioned. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 9:51
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    It's an easy trap to fall into but you can be nice and fiercely critical at the same time. Sort of like what we're doing in this post right now. It's necessary to decouple your feelings about particular users from their behavior and address the behavior in an independant way. – magisch Apr 12 '18 at 9:54

The "incriminating" quote reads:

... I'd like to apologise for the onslaught of crap responses

Here, you're calling several unspecified answers "crap". This makes several unspecified contributors angry. They may or may not be those who you had in mind.

From your question:

I don't see how I attacked other users or their answers.

By calling them crap. Maybe you don't mean them, but you mean someone.

I thought it worthwhile to extend some empathy and an apology on behalf of the community.

The problem with this is that "the community" may take issue with your speaking on its behalf (whether or not it agrees with you on the level of substance). You're one voice in the concert (or cacophony), not some kind of ambassador of the community at large. Acting as spokesperson without a mandate will likely be seen as presumptuous.

...When someone from a minority group brings up an issue, they get an onslaught of rather crappy responses.

I agree with this observation. The voting mechanism is imperfect at filtering out crap, and even worse at promoting the best (i.e. best-working, best-reasoned, most truthful and adequate) answers, because it privileges commonsensical and even populist responses. This is a problem in particular on "minority issues". As a side-note, that's why functioning democracies balance the voting mechanism with individual rights and public deliberation.

Therefore, I also empathize with your desire to comfort someone

who appeared to be catching an awful lot of noise, aggravation, and needless moderation.

However, if you do this by apologizing on someone else's behalf, you are attacking that someone. Perhaps what you meant to say is not "I apologise to you, OP, for the others," but "I feel sorry for you, OP".

Personally, I believe criticizing answers through comments or through your own answer should not be discouraged (in contrast to current policy), because this is the only way to counter the above-mentioned imperfections of the voting mechanism. But that's a matter for a different meta question.


SE is not like the rest of the internet, there is a standard of behavior that requires us to address issues in a different way.

Answers are supposed to be stand alone and address the question put fort, and nothing else. This is why on other stacks, "I agree with what Joe said" is going to get down-voted just as quickly. If a question or answer is viewed to be rude, or even a rant, then it is going to get down-voted.

Criticizing the answers of others, doubly so.

Add vulgar language to the post and you're not going to like the community's response. Yes, "crap" counts as vulgar language.

Saying that IPS is no different from the rest of the internet doesn't help either, because SE prides itself on being different, and in most cases it is. That is why mods crack down on flame wars, that is why we have flagging and that is why we have meta.

On other sites, I troll. I readily admit it, and I troll there and not here because SE IS different and that's exactly why people come here.

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    and apparently, some people think that being nice is a bad idea. – user4548 Apr 11 '18 at 22:21
  • Upvoted - I, too, come back to Stack Exchange because it's different from the rest -- and ultimately better. A better experience, and a better use of time. + 1 👍 – D.Hutchinson Apr 11 '18 at 22:36
  • @RichardU : Beside that, as an expert (as you say so, I'm not kidding in any way), do you think that the original question, the one that led to so many comments / answers and meta post and a flaming war that upset so many people, do you think it is a troll? That's exactly what I thought when it was posted, I just kept an eye on it, and... well... so predictable... :( – OldPadawan Apr 12 '18 at 6:55
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    @OldPadawan In my opinion, it was a troll post and flamebait. The OP's defense of it seemed a caricature. I think I posted in chat that if I wanted to disrupt this site, I would post something nearly identical to that. We have a multinational membership and I have noticed a bit of an anti-american tone (not much of one, but it's there) and throwing in the phrase "thankfully, not the USA" was guaranteed to get the Americans outraged, and the non-Americans to say "what's the big deal"? It's a classic "Let's you and him fight" move. – user4548 Apr 12 '18 at 11:32
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    @OldPadawan it also hit just about every touch-point to be controversial and inflammatory. You have racism, the whole talking about "white people" in such a way as to drive a wedge to the point where anyone even asking to soften the tone gave the OP the opportunity to respond by calling people racist and wanting to silence them for speaking out. I've used a similar tactic elsewhere to yank people's chain, – user4548 Apr 12 '18 at 11:39
  • @RichardU : ok, thanks for confirming I'm not 100% dummy :) – OldPadawan Apr 12 '18 at 11:39
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    @OldPadawan YW. Oh, another thing we should have looked at was the fact that the OP walked in with no profile, and that was the only question he asked. Troll likelihood: 95% – user4548 Apr 12 '18 at 13:09
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    Hmm "I find it amusing that your question got closed, especially at what remains open. Next time, include something about being trans, and dealing with bigotry, and it will make HNQ" – apaul Apr 12 '18 at 15:11
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    And "the simple fact is that this question was closed because heterosexuality is never the answer" – apaul Apr 12 '18 at 15:12
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    Doesn't look all that different. – apaul Apr 12 '18 at 15:12
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    @apaul I made no claim to being a saint, or even a good man, quite the opposite in fact. but there are a few differences. 1)Mine were in comments. 2) They were not meant seriously. 3) I don't defend them. However, if you're willing to agree that we were both wrong, I'd accept that. – user4548 Apr 12 '18 at 15:18

As you are well aware, this site currently has a problem with people attacking other people based upon their differences of perspective.

Very recently, I commented in support of a meta answer you posted calling out a major aspect of this problem.

The problem largely revolves around people feeling that a different perspective to their own is offensive, and feeling the need to comment to attack that perspective.

How is pointing out that you feel other answers are "crappy" any different?

I wish I knew an easy solution to this problem, but doing the exact same thing back to the "other side" is not the solution.

Post good answers. Don't use answers as a platform to attack or criticize other answers or comments. That's what flags, edits, and downvotes are for. Simple.


You cannot apologize for what other people has done. You apologize for what you yourself has done. If you had written "I apologize for the rude comment I wrote earlier, that was wrong of me", that would have been an apology.

Apologizing for somebody else is an insult to that other person. Nothing more, nothing less.

In addition, there is the general SE expectation that an answer should be just an answer with no extras. (Something I myself sin against often (like in this parenthesis))


There is a very difficult balance to strike here and I have to slightly disagree with what has been said so far.

Yes, calling other responses "crap" is not nice to those who posted the comments. But remaining silent can be seen as tacitly supporting those comments, which is worse for the questioner. I think you were right to call out that behaviour, specifically because it is an attempt to be nice, even if the words you chose weren't the best. Initially, it should have just been edited instead.

That said, with the comments deleted, the apology has become unnecessary, and in that light I do support it getting edited out of your answer entirely. The deletion already serves as an indication that those comments were not welcome, and for future readers of the question who cannot see the comments, the apology serves no longer serves a purpose.

  • Just because someone else is doing something wrong does not excuse doing something wrong yourself. There are other ways of showing solidarity besides not being nice. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 20:47
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    @sphennings I agree and have not attempted to suggest otherwise in my answer. My point is that although it did not meet this site's "nice" requirements, it could have been edited into something that did, which would have been a bigger improvement than simply removing it. – hvd Apr 11 '18 at 20:48

Part of your original answer, namely this

First off, I'd like to apologise for the onslaught of crap responses you've already received and those that'll likely be rolling in over the next few days. It's an unfortunate reality of talking about these things online and unfortunately IPS is no exception.

violates the Be Nice policy, which everyone on this site must adhere to. It does not matter how much rep one has; respectful dialogue is what makes the Stack Exchange model work so well and keeps people coming back to use the site.

I understand your frustrations, but you have to do a better job keeping your emotions in check, when posting such an answer - to an especially emotional question.

I recommend reviewing the Be Nice policy; now is a great time to do so:


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    Careful, mentioning the "be nice" policy is the quickest route to down-votes – user4548 Apr 11 '18 at 21:26
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    @RichardU Which is why my answer (which mentions being nice) is doing so poorly. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 21:27
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    I downvoted because this doesn't actually explain what violated "Be Nice" in the post in question, making it not very useful. Furthermore, you appear to be making a personal judgement about the OP in this answer: "you have to do a better job keeping your emotions in check" which, ironically, is itself not very nice. – Em C Apr 11 '18 at 21:32
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    @sphennings I'm sorry, I don't see you mentioning the policy anywhere in your answer. – user4548 Apr 11 '18 at 21:32
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    @RichardU it's not mentioned by name. OP has been around long enough that they should be aware of what I'm referring to when I say something is "not nice" I'll add a link to the policy to make it more obvious. – sphennings Apr 11 '18 at 21:40

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