19

I've notice that Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange has a custom post notice which moderators can add to questions:

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.

Here is an example of a question with such a post notice.

We have frequently encountered this problem on this website, too. Someone posts a question about a politically controversial topic. A few hours later there are 20+ comments of people fighting a flamewar about the subject matter of the question, while comments which actually seek to provide constructive improvement of the question itself get drowned out. And when you then scroll down to the answers, you see a couple answers with voting scores ranging from -3 to -10 which contain long rants about the subject of the question without answering the question itself, also with opinionated comment debates below them.

Please note that the above notice is just a synopsis of what the help for the commenting privilege says comments should be used for. It doesn't change anything about the rules for comments. It is just a reminder that these rules will be enforced.

That's why I think that we should also have that post notice text on Politics Stack Exchange.

What do you think about this?

  • 3
    Can you clarify the distinction between a controversial post and one that will be deleted because "this isn't the place for it"? What will the standards be for a question given this notice? – user_42 Jul 19 '18 at 17:11
  • 3
    @user_42 Such a question would be one which asks objective questions about a current hot-button issue. Some topics which attract such questions are, for example: Donald Trump and Russia, Israel/Palestine conflict, Ukraine/Russia conflict, Communism, Iran and the JCPOA or refugees in Europe (although not all questions about these topics would need this notice. Only those which risk to push some buttons of our more argumentative community members) – Philipp Jul 19 '18 at 18:17
  • 3
    In that case, I agree, although it will do little to stop the downvote brigade by opposing sides. – user_42 Jul 19 '18 at 18:23
  • Please add this somewhere, in the question or in an answer: who decides that, according to which criteria, when? I guess that will have to be written down beforehand ,at least here on meta, if implemented. And if there is such a rule, I guess I'd like that to be applied strictly and swiftly and uniformly: if one Trump-question gets that banner, then quite likely all should get one? I think the worst would be to apply that too much "on a case by case" basis. – LаngLаngС Jul 19 '18 at 19:50
  • @LangLangC Please note that the rule that the policy that comments should be improvement suggestions and answers should answer the question (nothing more and nothing less) applies always! The text above is just a reminder for a practice which should be followed in general. – Philipp Jul 19 '18 at 21:25
  • I thought "Please add this …[clarification] to the question" is just that. If you intend to mean that the rest of the comment should be an answer here I'll write it up. – LаngLаngС Jul 19 '18 at 21:29
  • This policy actually originated at the workplace. workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/q/4848/16 – SoylentGray Aug 13 '18 at 16:44
  • How can I request this? I have a feeling some of my recent questions qualify. I flagged comments on one, but it's getting tiresome to do it on all. I got used to the block-downvotes (from a certain block) on that, but the comments clog my message queue. – Fizz Aug 17 '18 at 17:04
  • @Fizz You would do so by flagging your own question for moderator attention and ask for it in the text field. – Philipp Aug 17 '18 at 17:13
21

Yes.

Please. In my mind, users fall into two groups:

  • Regulars. They visit Politics.SE regularly and are generally familiar with the SE model. There may be a significant variation in their knowledge of how these sites work, but they are all generally familiar.
  • Wayfarers. They don't know how things work here. Many of them may be brand-new, perhaps drawn in what appears to be a discussion on a topic that is important to them. Some are drawn from other stacks (especially the technical ones) who aren't used to applying the SE model to seemingly softer topics.

Both groups benefit from this post notice. The Regulars might occasionally need a reminder to help maintain their discipline, while the Wayfarers need it for education and socialization.

I also tend to think that there is a broken-window problem here. When users see low-quality answers or comments they may think it's acceptable here and will post similar content on their own. A post notice is a response from the community, letting them know that this is not okay.

  • 2
    Broken-window is a severe problem. But so is quashing legitimate inquiry by appeals to technicalities. If a question, or answer, can be improved, the constructive thing to do is to suggest minimally-intrusive edits. There is already a lot of attempts to quash content that people simply find dissonant to their world view. – grovkin Jul 23 '18 at 3:17
  • 2
    @Grovkin the banner explicitly states that suggesting improvements is permitted (and the mods can quash legitimate inquiry just as easily without a post banner announcing it) – HAEM Jul 25 '18 at 10:14
  • @HAEM they don't need an extra encouragement to do it though. The animosity in this community is already rivaled by the most vicious religious debates. – grovkin Jul 27 '18 at 0:28
5

I was going to just leave a comment, but decided to expand this into an answer.

I'm skeptical that adding a 'notice' like this, is a valuable change. It might actually have negative value, if it's applied only to certain posts.

My fear would be that this only gets slapped onto questions as a way to further legitimize pruning unpopular answers/comments(that may have in fact been suggesting improvement/pointing out a flaw). We already have too many instances of unpopular comments being deleted under the rules, while equally unnecessary comments under the same answer are left, usually because they espouse a more popular opinion.

TLDR: This should really only happen as a blanket notification on all questions. Or not at all.

  • 2
    IMO, it seems like an unreasonable burden to say it's all or nothing. Even real laws, enforced by staff of thousands with budgets in the millions of dollars, can't uniformly enforce a rule. However, the best approach to making sure it is uniform is for everyday users like ourselves to flag occasions where the post notice should be applied or repealed. – indigochild Jul 20 '18 at 17:11
3

That depends.

And it depends on how this is implemented:

  • Who decides that such a banner appears?
  • According to which criteria?
  • When, that is: how soon does this appear?

I guess that methodology and procedure will have to be written down and explained beforehand, at least here on meta, if implemented.
And if there is such a rule, I guess I'd like that to be applied strictly and swiftly and uniformly:
if one Trump-question gets that banner, then quite likely all Trump-questions should get one?

I think the worst would be to apply that too much "on a case by case" basis. That would leave the impression of arbitrariness on some for sure and therefore also ensure complaints about that unwritten and consequently unknowable "rule".

Seeing how this is implemented on the Interpersonal Skills SE: these banners should contain a link to the meta post explaining these rules in more detail.

Something I observed: while it is certainly correct that "the policy that comments should be improvement suggestions and answers should answer the question (nothing more and nothing less) applies always!" it seems equally correct to say that this rule is obviously not always applied.
Sometimes the lines between "not correct"-comment (useful, objective, improvement encouraging criticism) and chit-chatty "duh!"-comments is hard to draw. I am no fan of either over-eager comment deletion nor blackhole-comment-threads.

I think having that rule set written down and easily accessible from that banner would explain this site's standards quite effectively, especially to the "Wayfarers" from indigochilds answer.

Since many visitors and especially low-rep "repeat offenders" against the "what are comments meant to be/there for" rules can be assumed to be ignorant of these rules, as they simply did not read the rules on this it would be low hanging fruit to include a link to more detailed explanation for the banner and a reminder to the rules in general.

  • 2
    I don't think that we need that much red tape just to allow the moderators to remind people of a guideline which applies anyway. The banner doesn't give moderators any additional privileges. It just reminds people of a privilege they already have and in which way they are supposed to use it. – Philipp Jul 19 '18 at 21:42
  • 2
    How about applying the controversial banner by tag and removing it at moderator discretion? Any of the tags used in Philipp's examples (Donald Trump and Russia, Israel/Palestine conflict, Ukraine/Russia conflict, Communism, Iran and the JCPOA or refugees in Europe) are more often controversial than not. – user_42 Jul 20 '18 at 14:07
  • 2
    You can always use a flag to ask for the post notice to be applied or removed. It's the responsibility of users like us to direct many of these things. I do like the idea of a meta question that specifies what these are for. It would be educational for users who see them, but somehow aren't sure why. – indigochild Jul 20 '18 at 17:10
  • @indigochild Other site, other banner. But I once saw a post where I thought that banner should appear, flagged it, and got a "declined" answer. Given that I have a bit more rep there than here: I really thought that fits an (unwritten) rule, a very real pattern. Apparently it didn't. That left me with quite a sour feeling of arbitrariness as I was unable to infer the logic behind that to this day. [I know that a declined flag is not the end of anything. Yet a positive rule (i.e. written) is much easier to understand or interpret than guessing at the spitritous volonté générale.] – LаngLаngС Jul 20 '18 at 17:17
-1

I don't think it will really accomplish anything. Just take a look at this comment by a repeat offender (who was trying to push a ridiculous conspiracy theory):

comment

They already know better and reminders don't help. They simply don't care.

Unless ignoring this warning is backed by something tougher than just deleting the existing comments, which might actually be what they want to happen in some cases, I'm sure it will also be ignored.

UPDATE:

As if to prove my point, that same user has posted another comment, removing any doubt that they and others would also ignore this warning in order to "call out that content".

comment

P.S. I'd also consider the downvotes (currently 7) on this answer good evidence that those regular users who already ignore the rules on comments want to continue to do so with impunity. Other than that, the score on this answer is pretty meaningless because the facts of this answer simply cannot be voted away.

  • I anonymized the screenshot you posted. Singling out one specific offender while talking about a more general problem is just generating hostility. – Philipp Jul 20 '18 at 9:05
  • 5
    @philipp isn't removing of author's name from a quote tantamount to removing attribution? Content licensed under CC has to retain attribution. – user21369 Jul 24 '18 at 15:23
-2

No.

Politics is frequently a team sport. And there are bound to be topics on which moderators will not want to simply act as referees. Perfectly reasonable questions or answers can get quashed for the sole reason that they frustrate one of the moderators.

This problem is not as pronounced for "interpersonal skills." So it's not as big an issue for that site.

Exercise of less restraint by the moderators is not likely to improve civility on this site. Nor does it make it more likely that genuinely knowledge-seeking inquiry would survive the political bias or the orthodoxy bias.

Perhaps this can be made workable if strict categories of questions that meet this criteria are enumerated beforehand. And even those categories must meet certain criteria.

For example, there is a number of questions which promote or try to de-legitimize certain states, their territorial integrity or their rights of self-determination. Among those states are Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, Armenia (its statehood is not recognized by Turkey), Bosnia And Herzegovina and probably others which are just as controversial, but whose names currently escape my memory. This could be one of the enumerated categories for such a "controversial" tag: questions which suspend the reality of statehood of a nation in order to examine the theoretical implications of that nation's formative events.

So what can be criteria for criteria? There should be some demonstrable mutually-opposing political movements which have taken opposite sides on this issue. The political movements must not be fringe. They must be represented by name (and not by implication or 3rd party attribution) by parliamentary seats in some countries or by some heads of states.

-2

Yes, but I propose to introduce three changes:

  1. The sentence "Moderators will remove debates, arguments or opinions without notice." will be deleted. Politics.SE without debates, arguments or opinions is like breathing without air. Instead I propose "Avoid insinuations, accusations or loaded language. Understand that other persons may feel also very strongly about the topic, so tread carefully. Give sources for your statements, unsourced claims can and will be deleted without warning."

  2. The "Controversial post" is set up by at least 5 2 moderators with names, so we can prevent abuse. Everyone here has a hot button when it is pushed will incline the person to use the "Controversial Post" to restrict the argumentation brought forward.

  3. All comments under answers are automatically changed into chat discussions. I have experienced that the discussion is much less charged if provocative comments are not immediately visible (it also avoids the "Someone is wrong on the Internet" ensnarement).

  • 1
    I respectfully disagree with each one of your points. 1: this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. People come here to get answers to questions about politics, not get caught up in debates. If you want to read political arguments, then there are plenty of other websites which got you covered. 2: We only have 3 moderators on the site. I also don't see why we need a quorum for a notice which by itself doesn't even do anything until mods enforce it manually. 3: that would also remove those comments we want to keep, like those which actually seek to improve the question. – Philipp Jul 30 '18 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Philipp 2. That was a fast rebuttal. Perhaps at least 2? 3. Who decides what to keep? And what about long-winded comment sections which almost always occurs on controversial posts? Even with the best comments filtered they are often too long. 1. This is not science, this is politics, meaning that people who accept the same facts come to different conclusions according to their worldview. Most political questions cannot be answered unambigously. In fact, most people would like to know e.g. why group X thinks this way and not if group X is right. – Thorsten S. Jul 30 '18 at 20:08
-8

No.

Stop censoring questions and answers.

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