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I'm wondering about what our rules are (or should be) regarding tone of comments. Sometimes comments can be made that aren't outright rude, per se. That is, they don't insult people directly or call people names, but they do have an unfriendly air that could be interpreted as hostile. I won't point out any specific comments, but I'll try to make an example that I think demonstrates this.

Q: I'm trying to attach my wuzzit to my widget, but I can't figure out how to do it. Please help!
Comment: Any true widget enthusiast would know that you can't attach a wuzzit without a wozzle sidepiece. It is foolish to try otherwise.

This example may not be the best for a variety of answers but please bear with me. In this hypothetical the comment isn't really explicitly bad. It even offers information helpful to the problem. But would a comment like this be considered against the rules? I'm not as concerned about hurt feelings as I am about presenting an image to potential site users that we are unwelcoming to people who are new to Japanese or have a lower level in general. It would be a shame if people were afraid to ask questions for fear of being derided.

In our rules is included the entry "be nice:"

Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.

Where do we draw this line? Should comments that display any hint of not-niceness be flagged? Or is actually going as far as moderating comments reserved for more flagrant violations?

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    I think that it is obvious that condescending or harsh comments are against the rules. The real question is, as you wrote, where we draw the line. – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 12 '13 at 10:29
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I think it's obvious that we all would prefer the site to be civil. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't think a clear line can be drawn on exactly where the boundaries are. This is fundamentally a somewhat subjective question. If someone has a model of clear guidelines, however, I'm very open to hearing it.


Where do we draw this line? Should comments that display any hint of not-niceness be flagged? Or is actually going as far as moderating comments reserved for more flagrant violations?

My fellow moderators may object to this, but my preference is that you flag anything that you think is rude. We're fairly tolerant of non-helpful comments as long as they don't get excessive, but I'm very willing to nuke them if they stray into abrasive territory. If a comment is rude or abrasive, please flag it.

Even if it combines good information with a rude comment, flag it and we can edit it. We periodically run across answers and comments of the from "If you had actually studied in class, you'd know that X is a Y, which means it works like Z." Usually we can just remove the first clause in cases like that. We can edit comments even after the original commentor cannot, and if all else fails we can simply remove the comment.


  • If you think we're being too harsh on people's freedom of expression, complain here on meta.
  • If you think we're rejecting too many flags that you've marked as abrasive, complain here on meta.

But in order for either to happen, we need to see flags. We do quite a bit of finding such things ourselves as well, but we obviously miss quite a few.

  • I wasn't aware that moderators had the ability to edit comments as well, though it makes sense. I'll definitely feel more willing to flag things knowing that they can just be edited slightly. – ssb Nov 15 '13 at 1:44

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