# How is the community doing? [2017] [duplicate]

We wanted to take a minute to check in and see how the community feels like things are going on the site. A little more than a year ago, we had a pretty lengthy discussion about site problems; it mixed in a specific debate about the [rules-as-written] tag, concerns with comment deletion, concerns with question closure, concerns with downvotes without comments, concerns with toxicity in chat, concerns with posts getting edited... Basically a wide ranging set of things that had ended up all bubbling up together at one time.

Out of that, we took some guidance we thought would be constructive and worked with the community to implement it. It's been a year, and it seems to me like the site's going pretty well. New users are up (the rate of new user addition's been going up dramatically since November). Page views have nearly doubled year over year. Visitors and active user stats continue strong growth along the line they've been following since 2014 (+50% YOY). But also, we've seen much less in terms of flame-wars on the site/in chat, and subjectively from the moderator point of view it's seemed like a much more constructive and less contentious than in some of the past. We'd like to share our thoughts, and also get yours on what is going well and what could improve.

Here's how I'd like to run this specific Q&A so that we can get good value out of it. I'll post some of the things we've done/observations we have/things we think still need improvement. Please do the same. Try to post one kind of thing per answer, so that when people upvote/downvote based on whether they agree or not it's more clearly actionable - if you write an essay about 4 different things, it's not going to be clear what part(s) people agree or disagree with.

As usual, Be Nice applies to meta as well as the main site. You may strongly disagree with other users or with the mods or whoever, but we trust you can find ways to express what you like or don't like without being hostile or insulting to others.

Upvote or downvote based on your agreement. Let's not have long comment threads - if you disagree with an answer, post your own answer. This isn't just being pedantic - if we have a 30-comment thread on an answer, what does that tell us we need to do? Mostly it tells us whether one person is really irritated instead of whether a large part of the community disagrees, which is what we kinda want to get to.

So here we go - my thoughts on things that are going well or need improvement, feel free and add on!

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• The very existence of this question and the fact there are quality, well-voted-for answers below is a marker of community health. – eimyr Apr 12 '17 at 9:48
• Great idea to post this and get feedback on the site! I'm encouraged by the coverage of the answers and the healthy discussions happening on them. – Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 12 '17 at 19:08
• I wish people wouldn't delete their answers when they get downvoted - those are important to see what the community disagrees with, and are therefore a valuable contribution from you even if the community says "we don't think that's the right course." – mxyzplk Apr 17 '17 at 2:31
• Let's close this one to be historical, in favor of the new 2018 version! – mxyzplk Apr 26 '18 at 3:55

# We have a high-quality site!

I go to this site for expert answers on RPGs, and it still meets my standards most of the time. I am kinda biased towards and against certain users at this point, but new user posts are still frequently quite good and sometimes someone surprises me. Participation in other sites similar to ours, like writing and worldbuilding, really highlights how good of a job we are doing at producing a high-quality stack. Our questions are frequently well-asked and often well-answered, and questions like 'how does I cast wizerd spells in D&D' don't dominate the home page. This isn't a change, but it's sort of the core metric I use for site health, so...

• One bad thing, though, is that Dr. Brian Ballsun-Stanton doesn't post here so much anymore, which is sad and significantly hurts our site-quality :( – the dark wanderer Apr 10 '17 at 22:21
• Brian's extended absence wasn't unexpected — he was well burned out by the time he finally pulled the ripcord and got an election arranged, and probably should have done so much earlier. I still hope to see him be back eventually, when his extended vacation from the site is done providing the relief he needs. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 4:11
• +1 for comparing RPG.SE to other sites. Those who believe that RPG.SE has major problems probably have to visit Worldbuilding, russian version of Russian.SE, and Sci-fi/Fantasy. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Apr 17 '17 at 22:26
• Or, heaven forfend, visit literally any other RPG forum... I've done them all from rec.games.frp.dnd to ENWorld/RPGnet to the new ones the kids are on, and it's always 99% junk for that sweet 1% of info - which tickles our "random interval, random payoff" funny bones psychologically I suppose but it's such a waste of time layered around the actual fun activity, gaming. Get your help fast and get back to it! – mxyzplk Apr 26 '17 at 1:12

# We aren't D&D5e.stackexchange.com

Yay! We still have a hugely active 3.x and 4e community, so our that-new-thing-only issues have somewhat diminished. We are still largely D&D.stack, but Fate seems to have carved out an okay market share with our users and Apocalypse World isn't doing bad either. Overall I think we've made some small positive motion in the direction of diversity

• I'm thrilled the Powered by the Apocalypse games are growing in presence, and that Fate is as well. I'm also relieved BESW helped us identify the Fate Gremlin so that we could prevent it dealing much more harm. That also gives us a framework to potentially approach and identify future issues without putting any one set of users in the spotlight. – doppelgreener Apr 10 '17 at 22:52
• I've enjoyed the increase in FFG's star wars games as well. – Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 12 '17 at 19:04
• It's still tiny, but one thing that I found really cool was how our the-dark-eye exploded this year! :D We had 6 new questions, and a bunch of those were in the last few months. – the dark wanderer Apr 12 '17 at 21:52

# We have some meta process problems

I'm still upset about the whole game-rec/tool-rec thing. Since then, I feel like there have been at least a few other failures of process regarding mod/community interaction on meta. It's frustrating to me that moderation takes such a hostile stance to disagreement regarding appropriate site procedure and policy, and that you guys seem incapable of listening to loud, ignorant, angry, poorly informed users and figuring out where they are coming from and in what manner their complaints are valid. I get that that's hard, but it's also really important to moderating well. Sometimes I feel like the problems the mods have in listening to people who are wrong and behaving badly extend to people who are maybe not wrong, and maybe not behaving badly.

Like, I do my best to remain reasonable and compassionate in discussion (sometimes I mess up. That seems to be happening more frequently lately), but me and mxyzplk don't get along, I guess. Most of the time I post something on meta I think is important, I pretty much assume that I'm going to get an insulting, patently offensive comment or answer from them. I don't flag them anymore because at some point in the past I got the impression that that came across as insulting or something. I wish I could talk about stuff on meta in a respectful way without having to deal with that; it's pretty annoying. Usually I can count on SSD to post something reasonable anyways, so that's nice, but it's also frustrating because (since we as a community really value our moderators and their opinions on meta issues) if I don't like what SSD is saying and think it's wrong or whatever I can't really address that well since the existence of the question as a topic has already been indicated to be offensive to another moderator and I generally try to avoid behavior that I think will agitate the moderation community (like participating in meta discussions that they don't want happening).

This is a serious issue, and I hope it will be resolved at some point. I dropped out of the site at the tail-end of that game-rec stuff for like a year or something because it was frustrating and there was acrimony everywhere and continued site activity wasn't really worth it. I'm glad things have died down, but the underlying problems are still there.

• This conversation got far too long for this particular Q&A's purpose and has been moved to chat. Please do check it out — there are some good discussions that happened / have started there. – SevenSidedDie Apr 25 '17 at 15:41

## Well-intentioned help-piles are occasionally problematic.

First, the mea culpa: I have been guilty of this as often as anyone else I've seen. Here's the problem, generally:

• New user posts a poor question. Downvotes and close-votes come quickly. This is proper: we should close unclear or OT questions quickly, and votes are for sorting useful and not-.
• Lots of users really want to help... three, four, five comments come in very quickly along the lines of "can you provide X, Y, and Z, I think they're the reason you might be getting downvotes" and "can you explain the problem you're having; as it stands this just feels like a discussion prompt." &c. &c. &c. Each individual comment is proper: they're factually correct, they're friendly and they assume good faith, and they--if understood--would help improve the post.
• New user is overwhelmed. Sometimes it gets sorted out, sometimes it contributes to a "this site sucks you're all a bunch of tools screw you" comment, self-vandalism, and rage-quit. In the worst instances, the user's inappropriate comment gets deleted and their post-deletion gets reverted--both actions are proper!--while they're still watching, which only exacerbates the seeming idiocy of what can only be a back-room cabal. (Never mind the fact that occasionally there's evidence of an actual back-room cabal, as chatizens are actively discussing unfolding events in real-time.)

It's true that the rage-quitter might not have been a good fit anyway. It's true that the one who ends up working out may never suffer any long-lasting ill will. But the mere fact that there are new users whose first impression is "overwhelmed" I find problematic.

To be clear: in the cases I'm thinking of everybody is saying correct things, saying them nicely, and is well-intentioned. Here's an example (10K only). I cite this example only because it was easy to find--not to chastise the users featured there in any way. (So many of these end up deleted that they're hard to go back and find.)

So what to do? I think we need to coalesce around a norm of patient helpfulness. Let me suggest some good practices:

• Vote (up/down, close/open) as always. This is not intended to change how the post gets handled, just the user.
• If you're the first to comment, leave a welcoming and friendly comment, thanking them for contributing. Pick one or two of the largest issues you see and have acted on (downvote, hold-vote). Don't offer the "this might be why people are..." comment, say "I voted to hold this because...."
• If you don't have time to comment thusly, don't leave a briefer/terser comment. Someone will come along within five minutes and leave such a comment. We've got a really responsive citizenry. (Can a SEDE expert verify that? I wonder if it's possible to see a distribution of time between first close-vote and first comment, filtered on posts by users with under 200 or so rep?)
• [Great suggestion from @thedarkwanderer] Be a little more-liberal with editing than you might be with an established user. With an established user it's common practice to leave a comment along the lines of "I think this post would be improved by...." With the brand-new user, though, we suggest you go ahead and make the edit, and leave a comment along the lines of "Hi $USER--it seems to me that your use of two systems' terms is confusing, so I cleaned up your post a little to just use terms from$SYSTEM-TAGGED. I hope this helps, and if I've gotten anything wrong you can just  your question again or revert my edit by clicking on 'edited \$TIME ago.'"

• Once a few comments like these are on the post... wait. Let's see if the user's responsive before giving them a ten-item checklist they have to wade through. "Uhh, okay. I'll read the tour, then this meta about one post. Then I'll edit down to one question and post another separately. Now I'm getting two streams of comments! What the what, what?"

• Use the "on hold" terminology: avoid referring to close-votes and closure as such. After all, the change was made explicitly to try and send gentler messages to new users.
• If it appears an experienced user is working productively, restrain the urge to chime in. Even if they say something you disagree with! In a similar vein, if one of the established users working with the new user says something you disagree with, don't argue with them in comments. Nothing is going to sour a new user like two established users yelling at each other, drowning out their question. Either wait for the comments to die down, ping the tour-guide in chat, or wait until the post's reopened to fix minor issues of accuracy.
• The moment you get any flak/pushback from a new user, just step away. I, personally, have recently been trying to hold myself to a two-comment per post maximum. Trust that the system will work: if a new user engages in good faith they will get help in a useful way. If they're not they won't. It's not our job to directly shove them from one category to another, it's just our job to be the site-response that prompts their self-training.

I think these all boil down to a few fundamental principles:

• Keep your eye on the prize: getting the question good enough to be on-topic/reopened. We can fix the small things later, focus on the big things while closed.
• Trust your fellow citizens to do a good (enough) job,
• Be patient.
• Whether this user ever comes back--whether the post ever gets one more minute of their attention--the site's better off if they leave with a neutral-to-positive impression rather than a negative one.
• I agree. Even if the OP is firing back fast and furious in comments, slowing down so they read and think is probably merited. And we've had some people feel badgered/bullied by the sheer amount of "help." it's definitely the right thing to do to close/counsel/edit/reopen but take it easy. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 3:20
• We also have some trouble with dogpiling on downvotes. -1 gets the message across to a new user; -5 is usually unnecessary. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 4:10
• @BESW I agree, but only halfway. I feel horrible when I see a first, bad question hit -5 in 5 min, but I also remember a really convincing meta.SE post that talked about voting the post, not the score. So perhaps I'm a little gentler with new users' posts once they're already negative, but I can't fault anyone who votes their conscience. – nitsua60 Apr 12 '17 at 4:34
• Absolutely, voting is whatever it is and the best we can do it cultivate community environments which spur thoughtful voting. I'm just thinkin', for all the "we need to not put new users on hold" talk flying around it seems to me that downvotes are a lot less friendly and go away a lot slower. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 12:51
• Getting it closed quickly helps fend off downvotes. Another issue, as I mention in my "contentiousness around closing" answer, is when the helpers start arguing - although usually that's not real arguing around the content but is arguing about "why you close things you so mean," but in either case the dogpile starting to bite itself totally scares new folks. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 14:37
• One caveat is that, from a 35,000-foot view of the site, sometimes help-piles have smoked out users who cannot fit in (that's our handling of someone who later revealed themselves to be a sockpuppet of a user suspended for trolling). It doesn't have to be a user who has mal-intent either; there've been times when a help-pile served as a crash course in how we do things, and it was quickly evident that the site and they were a poor match. It's a minority of cases, but I felt the need to mention that there are a few desirable emergent effects too. – SevenSidedDie Apr 13 '17 at 1:18
• @SevenSidedDie respectfully, I have a hard time counting that as much of an emergent desirable effect. I just don't see how--and let's take the case of a sincere and well-intentioned new user--a crash course is better than the "regular" course they'd get if not piled-on. – nitsua60 Apr 13 '17 at 12:26
• I found myself wanting to upvote each of your bullet points as if they were comments. I think it would be really great if you posted a meta on how to help new users and self-answered with that list. I'd upvote the heck out of it. I mean, I'd only do it once, but I'd do so vigorously. – LegendaryDude Apr 13 '17 at 13:29
• One thing that I've found helpful is to be extra liberal with question edits with new users. For example, with purportedly unclear questions just taking a second to figure out what the OP actually probably means and then editing the question to ask that and leaving an explanatory comment is preferable to saying "Did you mean X?". If you do the edit, the finished question will fit in with our secret tone and diction requirements and be very likely to be reopened. A comment explaining that the OP can freely revert the edit or edit further prevents 'OH NO MODS D:' except in lost-cause cases. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 17:24
• Note that that's an exception to usual policy/edit behavior. With established users it's better to ask, not just out of respect but also because fixing things if it turns out that your edit was off is frustrating for answerers who may need to delete good answers. The trade off is worth it with new users, though-- they are already going to be more work for us to handle and this helps lower both the work we need to do and the work they need to do to get their first posts successful. It also gives them a model to work off for future questions. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 17:27
• @nitsua60 For the typical new user help-piles are undesirable, very much. Sometimes it has a silver lining with new “mal-users”, is what I mean. I don't think that's worth promoting help-piles, or even avoiding eliminating them. I do think it's worth making a note of though, as a side effect if we managed to eliminate help-piles would be losing that strange little bit of fast site “immune system” action. Just something to note as part of a complex system. – SevenSidedDie Apr 14 '17 at 21:53

We're going to have another mod election ASAP.

Unfortunately, other commitments have caused @waxeagle to not spend much time with us. So we've asked for a mod election to backfill his position. Given the changes, the site's not too much work per se for @SevenSidedDie and I, but having a diversity of viewpoints is always desirable. So look for an announcement of that soon. We'd love for the folks who have been doing great work curating our community to run!

The April 2017 election is now underway.

• Yep, mxyzplk and I are often on the same wavelength (enough that the times we aren't can stand out), but we're also keenly aware that a mental monoculture in the mod team is undesirable for the site. I'm personally looking forward to the stable instability that is magic number 3. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 4:16
• @SevenSidedDie IIRC, Christianity.SE has more than three diamond mods. (Based on what I learned during the recent election this past year). Is there a reason that we want to keep it to three? – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 21:00
• @KorvinStarmast I guess, just because we're not big enough / heavy mod workload enough to have considered it. I suppose we could have four, but… we didn't see a reason to ask for two new slots. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 21:52
• I don't have access to stats on C.SE, but being active on both sites thise site gets a shed load more traffic (at least that's my impression), but C.SE has mod coverage in multiple time zones. If three is good, fine, but given the complaints @mxyzplk made dring some of our meta discussions on game recommendation questions -- about there being limited mod time, and he's right, mod time is a limited resource -- maybe four mods is as good a fit as three? – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 21:57
• Off Topic, but is there a way to pass the hat and get waxeagle some kind of going away present? – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 21:59
• Or 59... No real reason, but we get along fine with 3. We don't need more so we can deliberately waste mod time; things that are time wasters need to go regardless. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 22:00
• We haven't been able to contact him for months so I'm assuming not. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 22:00
• @mxyzplk Thanks for the contact on wax answer, but on the "we get along fine with 3" smells of "we've always done it this way." I respect the concept of "don't fix what ain't broken," You mention in this answer that Diversity of Viewpoints is desired. I can see why a Catholic (like myself) would have a hard wired preference for 3 (that's a joke) but I asked about "why not more?" since "diversity of viewpoints" is increased if the team has 4 or 5. I completely appreciate your point of "where does it stop?" and certainly before 59. – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 15:53
• @KorvinStarmast 4 is a bad number because it's even. Even if mods don't literally solve disagreements by voting, a 50-50 mod split sounds really dangerous for a community. With 3 mods that can only happen via a 1v1 with 1 abstaining. That's a total lack of moderator consensus and the community will just make up its own mind there. 2v2 sounds... bad. Like, really bad. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 18:13
• @thedarkwanderer Hmm, so it's either 3 or 5, just like with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Got it. – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 19:16
• @KorvinStarmast I thought "five [was] right out!"... – Isaac Reefman Aug 9 '18 at 1:20
• @thedarkwanderer the number four appears not to have become a bad number in this case. I think our mix of mods has been beneficial. – KorvinStarmast Aug 9 '18 at 2:44
• Hey even though this is meta it’s not for random chatting. Take it to chat please. – mxyzplk Aug 9 '18 at 3:33

## TL;DR

I like seeing vocal (while respectful) disagreements on Meta; I believe it's a healthy sign. I feel like I'm seeing less of that this last year and it worries me. (A little.)

## I worry about a lack of diversity of opinion on Meta/in Meta discussions.

It feels--and I'm sorry, but I just can't point to a simple series of posts that create this impression--like we've heard less diversity in opinion expressed in Meta discussions this last year. I don't know whether that's good or bad, because I can't deconstruct how much this impression may be coming from (at least) the following factors:

• I joined at what appears to be one of the most tumultuous times in the site's history, so my lasting first impressions were of pretty-vigorous debate. (Recs, then RAW, anyone?)
• My own acculturation/indoctrination, such that what once appeared to me as "that's an interesting different POV, I'm sure glad someone took the time to write that up" might now look like "this person just doesn't get it." (I'm not saying that's the correct interpretation, just recognizing that I'm as susceptible to groupthink as anyone.)
• A few notable personalities "took a breather," and that might have an outsized impact on my perception of the range of discussion. (I'm thinking of more than just KRyan who has self-identified as such in this discussion already, but don't feel it's proper to "out" anyone else by name.)
• Signal discrimination, as applied to the user-base: if we're doing a better job of quickly rejecting poor users, then by necessity we're probably also upping the rejection rate of "good" users. (Just the inevitable evil of any system that discriminates with imperfect criteria.) If we are inevitably rejecting some voices that might be productive and valuable at the same time as we reject more low-quality contributions, then let's recognize that as a cost as well as a benefit.
• Perhaps we're just doing the good job community-moderating on mainsite that's already been mentioned in other answers, so that fewer users grow frustrated and "escalate" to meta? But it feels a little confirmation-biasey, so let's give that a hard look.
• I wasn't around during the tumultuous times you mention, so perhaps my perspective is useful as someone who saw it "fresh". My impression is -- and like you, I can't point to a series of threads to show it, but I feel it in general -- that "dissent" is "squashed" before it can form. The stack is useful and fun for me, and so I stay here. But the entire community is in such a near-perfect synchronization and acceptance of accepted practice that those who try and step outside the line are very quickly identified and pulled in. While this helps keep the stack in order, it also removes diversity. – user27327 Apr 11 '17 at 15:18
• This is not a dig at the mods or anyone in particular. It's just an observation of mine on the stack as a whole. Whether this is good or bad -- that is up to the community to assess. – user27327 Apr 11 '17 at 15:18
• We do "squash" dissent on the main site because that's not where it belongs, it does belong here on meta. And there have definitely been less contentious arguments on meta in the last year. I'm not sure that's due to any suppression... As the community gets older, more people agree with statements once contentious (like I kinda expected my answer here on "comment deletion is at appropriate levels" to get more downvoted, but it turns out the community's accepted it as a norm). Also, no issues that really split the community have come up. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 15:30
• I think it's positive overall - anyone can post to Meta whenever they want, there's no stopping it - and like I say we have high numbers of meta posts, this month is second highest in history - they just don't turn into massive arguments. I don't think that's a lack of diversity of opinion, just norming and being more polite. The meta flame wars of yore are nothing to long for, IMO. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 15:36
• @mxyzplk I think we've actually eliminated a lot of the historic cause for arguments. We actually sorted out a good solution for handling the [rules-as-written] tag, recommendation questions became off topic or replaced with a new approach, we've seemingly shifted away from needing the [sys-ag] so much, etc. Six years down the line an awful lot of answers about how we can operate effectively have solutions that seem to be working very well. I agree we're norming on large issues -- the forming and storming periods are probably mostly past. – doppelgreener Apr 11 '17 at 16:01
• I have deliberately reduced my participation on Meta as a direct result of the drama fest of last year, and in no small part partly due to my chagrin of having badly handled the "is something wrong" fiasco. While trying to be tactful and helpful all I did was throw gas on a fire. So, not gonna contribute to a drama fest again. The RAW tag fracas was a particularly frustrating time for quite a few of us, myself included. – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '17 at 21:34
• @KorvinStarmast I don't know how that ended cause I left, but at the time it certainly seemed to me like you were being tactful and respectful. I appreciate in particular your offer to act as a neutral mediator and think that was a good way of handling things. That said, I totally understand your decision to try to keep out of the drama this time. – the dark wanderer Apr 12 '17 at 22:04
• @thedarkwanderer Well, my intentions may have been good, but as they say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I just laid a few more bricks in the road. – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '17 at 22:07
• I agree with @doppelgreener; I joined just after you, and it seems to me that a major part of the change is that certain Big Questions actually have answers and we've settled into them over time - or at least, there may still be strong disagreement, but it's been clearly articulated on record and therefore doesn't need to be brought up again at every turn. – SirTechSpec Apr 30 '17 at 4:38
• However, I do think that past arguments have left a bad taste and we're reluctant to voice opinions. I, for one, have concluded that it's okay for me to ask about norms on Meta, but not okay to challenge those norms. To be sure, we don't want every yahoo who doesn't understand SE questioning every policy, but I think that there comes a point (2k? 20k? some other criteria?) where it ought to be okay to say "We/the mods currently do X, and I think we should do Y instead," and have responses in proper SE answer posts rather than getting shot down in comments or close votes. – SirTechSpec Apr 30 '17 at 4:51

We've seen the community step up their role in moderation much more (good IMO).

One of the key takeaways I had from the debate early last year was that people thought mods were acting "too much" instead of just handling exceptions. But discussion revealed we felt like we had to act because the community wasn't doing so themselves (flagging comments, closing questions, editing, etc.). The community said, and I paraphrase, "well we feel like we don't need to do it because you guys are." A vicious circle.

So, while we didn't accept some of the more dramatic proposed solutions like "mods shouldn't close-vote any more," we tried to step back and let the community act more and act first. Specific leaders stepped up and then the rest of the community did too, and the results I've seen are:

1. Chat is much more civil
2. Most questions that need revamp are closed/edited/reopened by the community
3. Most problematic comments/comment threads are flagged by the community - it's now rare that I go to a question and see a big 10-comment argument that hasn't been flagged already, in fact it surprises me now when it happens.

Great job to the community and it's resulted in a big improvement to the site's tone.

Seriously, it's not even a problem anymore. It's so nice.

Actually it makes it hard for me to use other SE sites because increasingly the network norm seems to be for high-rep users to leave answers in the comment section on questions they think are too trivial, or bad answers on questions they think are too hard so as to avoid downvotes, and running into that so frequently after doing stuff here is jarring.

(Apparently, this is still an issue for the mods, who have to respond to our comment answer flags. Hopefully, network-wide community management will improve things at some point)

• Uh… Hm. I guess if that's the impression the site gives, that's a good sign! We're doing a good job of keeping it cleaned up, then. Cleaning up comment answers is still one of the bread-and-butter moderation activities, but I guess it's somewhat invisible. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 7:32
• @SevenSidedDie it's invisible because they get flagged fast. I think the only way to 'finish' fixing this is to get a custom 'comment answer' flag reason added so Community can delete comments at a low flagging threshold. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 7:35
• I guess I would still consider it a problem from a mod perspective. We still wish people wouldn't do it so much. But from a site-visitor perspective, perhaps it isn't a visible problem anymore. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 7:40
• I flag a comment-answer for removal once or twice a month, so it's still a thing that some people do. I am also relieved it doesn't have a significant presence here and that we've got a community that acts against comment answers. – doppelgreener Apr 11 '17 at 9:19
• Ha yeah I'm not sure if I should DV this as I just got back from deleting an answer in comments (which was flagged)... Maybe "We still get comment answers but we clean them up fast" instead? – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 12:28
• I have run into some stick at other SE sites regarding my persistent "make this an answer" comments to answers in comments. Quite frankly, I have you all to thank for that PoV, and I'll keep at it. – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 12:58
• Yeah sometimes I'm on SF&F or Workplace and it just drives me nuts and I start flagging comments as "answer in comments." Though at least on Workplace they will delete them sometimes. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 19:43
• Very much agreed, and agreed that it definitely makes other SE sites harder to use when they don’t police this kind of thing. – KRyan Apr 12 '17 at 17:26
• I don't agree that we don't comment answer, but I agree (as others do) that we're really great at cleaning them up. For this reason, I remain neutral on this answer. And I also agree that it makes reading other SE sites who don't police their comment-answers a real PITA sometimes. – LegendaryDude Apr 13 '17 at 13:41

## From the perspective of an outsider who wasn't around for most of the context, there's some anomalously combative mod behavior.

First, disclaimers:

1. This is a great, useful site, and I've upvoted other answers that say so. I'm writing this answer not because it's the primary answer I have to "how are we doing," but because it's the only thing I have to say that isn't already expressed in another answer.
2. I used the word "anomalously" in my header because the concerns I'm addressing here are anomalies. This isn't "this mod is generally a jerk." It's "this mod is normally totally fine, but specific triggers and topics seem to cause them to suddenly act like a jerk, and they seem to have limited awareness of this."

The specific examples @mxyzplk is looking for are right in the question that @the dark wanderer linked in their answer. Both questions have answers from them that received a decent amount of downvoting and pushback. The first characterizes the asker's behavior as "offensive," while the second says "this is being made way more complicated than it needs to be" and features a comment that "I'm very much not happy about how this conversation has gone so far."

This is characterized by @BESW in that comment thread as "brusqueness," but it doesn't really look like brusqueness. Brusqueness is a no-nonsense answer to the question, without this kind of additional editorializing. These answer look more like grumpiness-bordering-on-flaming.

And the thing is - both questions have other answers that a) say basically the same thing, and b) aren't grumpy. So it's not like this is impossible!

I am certain (both because I understand at least a little about how online communities work, and because I've read some of the old meta discussions) that this isn't just random acts of grumpiness - it has context, history, and reasons behind it.

But from an outsider's perspective, it's weird and off-putting, and not to put too fine a point on it, it kind of seems like it always centers around @mxyzplk.

So, if I may offer a piece of gentle advice: mxyzplk, when somebody you don't like (possibly for good reason!) posts a question:

1. Take a deep breath.
3. Take another deep breath.
5. If you can't bring yourself to do (4), refrain from answering. SSD seems to be excellent at addressing these sorts of things with more equanimity, and no doubt picking up a third mod (as discussed elsewhere) will also help make it more of an option for you to just not answer some questions.

(Obviously this applies only to writing public content for the site. You're allowed to be grumpy when you're writing, say, suspension messages; I have no reason to believe you have behaved inappropriately in the context of mod actions.)

For newcomers like me, I suspect this will cause this community to seem more like an entirely functional community, and a little less like a mostly functional community with a distressing amount of drama lurking just below the surface.

• The game-rec conflict is what spurred the changes you see today, so that one is not unexpected. Of course that is the last post in a large series of huge argument posts where the mods were accused of acting with ill will some dozens of times. Possibly the largest flame war ever on the site. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 21:29
• The piracy one - I don't want to get into it too deeply and turn this into an argument on that stuff. But it had been preceded by arguing in a main question, and then on meta, SSD had already locked the question and walked away after being compared to a racist. So yes, I sound pretty angry in that question, and I intended to sound that way. Still do. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 21:32
• Given that, I don't think "I'm very much not happy about how this conversation has gone so far" is all that super mean. I am committed to Be Nice and being civil, but if your expectation is for me to not be unhappy about what I consider to be unacceptable behavior and express that - you should elect a mod who will do that. We're mods, not paid customer service agents. If I'm unhappy with the way you're acting, I'll tell you. You won't have to wonder. Frankly I think it's a weird expectation that we shouldn't be able to express that. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 21:34
• So I'm not going to downvote this because I am open to feedback on my approach, but be advised I'm not always going to take all of it. Which, you know, that's life. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 21:49
• @mxyzplk For sure! And I probably wouldn't go as far as "you should never express disapproval for behavior you disapprove of" so much as "when approaching things that have an obvious high risk of becoming arguments, try harder to de-escalate rather than escalate." For instance, in the piracy post, I note that the asker and SSD (who is the putatively wronged party here) managed to talk things out and not get in a big fight. – A_S00 Apr 12 '17 at 22:07
• Obviously some of this might be because the asker is/was more recptive to SSD than to you! But I would be surprised if it wasn't also because SSD answered in a way that left them more open to reconciliation and meeting in the middle. This is a very good and important skill for a mod to have! – A_S00 Apr 12 '17 at 22:07
• @mxyzplk Also: This is an example in which you handled a hostile user extremely well, without escalating. So I guess my feedback is mostly "more of that, please?" – A_S00 Apr 12 '17 at 23:37
• @A_S00 I'm definitely biased at this point, but I do like to think that I try and engage in a positive manner, when possible, with either mod. I think part of the difference for me personally is what I feel like the mods are asking me to respond to. Both mxyzplk and SSD thought I called SSD racist or something to that effect. SSD nuked the post and (separately) said 'if you're gonna call me racist then we can't talk', basically. Mxyzplk ?later? posted a thing saying "this is how it's always been, you dumb person, you"... – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 17:39
• The former led to me addressing that he thought I was calling him racist, and trying to make it clear that that was not at all what I was doing. The latter led to me explaining that actually there was no community consensus on this topic, hence my post looking for policy creation. Since the real problem, in this case, was that a mod felt accused of racism dealing with the first part of that was helpful, and the second part wasn't really about what it was saying it was about and that's not very helpful. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 17:45
• Except - and this is an important point - I didn't call you dumb or similar. Everyone likes to put words in my mouth, but I think it's important when accusing someone of violating Be Nice or not using good communication to refer to what they said. I accept that what I said made you feel like I was saying that - but that's a different thing. – mxyzplk Apr 13 '17 at 22:46
• I would like to think that it's possible to be firm and to-the-point (even blunt) without being condescending. – Jason_c_o May 2 '17 at 9:56
• from my point of view this whole advice would be better pointed at another, newly elected mod who has shown heavy handed editing and the like. I've never noticed questionable (?) behavior from mxyzplk. – Umbranus May 4 '17 at 8:13
• @Umbranus More effective would just be to say what you need to say (with civility) to the mod directly, perhaps in chat. A mysterious comment buried way down here is unlikely to have any effect. – SevenSidedDie May 4 '17 at 20:13

We still have some contentiousness around putting answers on hold.

We get many new users who ask multiple questions in one question, or are unclear, or don't say what game they're talking about.

In general the community's doing a great job of putting these on hold, getting clarification, and reopening once they're good.

Where I see this going off the rails, though, is there are people - who are motivated by wanting to help the user - that do a couple things.

1. They answer too fast when the question is obviously going to be closed
2. They object about questions being put on hold
3. They edit the question dramatically without input from the OP to try to get them on topic

This would be fine, kinda, but then it leads to conflict with the other people trying to work the questions according to site policy, and then people get heated and start to violate Be Nice. Over the last year we've had to issue a couple warnings and suspensions when discussion over a closed question went from 0 to inappropriate between site users in a short amount of time, and we hate having to do that.

From what I see, all the questions that should be open have gotten reopened after their workshopping - the only ones that remain closed are the ones that are off topic or the OP never came back to.

I think the solution here is "trust the process" - getting put on hold and clarified, IMO, isn't what is driving off users. Fights amongst the locals on their first question, that drives off users. If a question is unclear, let it close, work with the OP to engage them and get it worked up and then reopen it.

• this is, sadly, still a hold-on of the fastest gun in the west issue, wherein the first answer tends to be the accepted/most up voted answer – DForck42 Apr 10 '17 at 20:16
• This is particularly bad on 5e questions, where there is a lot of voting up whatever people see regardless of correctness. On tags like adnd2.0 or polaris or whatever where participation in voting is for whatever reason largely limited to people who have taken the time to think about what they are voting on the problem is still there but much less pronounced. Somewhere there's a line between 'default is leave unvoted' and 'default is vote up' and it seems somehow tied to volume of users, which is weird. Not sure what/if anything should be done. – the dark wanderer Apr 10 '17 at 21:53
• "We still have some problems around putting answers on hold." - Do you mean putting questions on hold, or do you specifically mean with regards to blocking off answers soon enough? – doppelgreener Apr 10 '17 at 22:08
• I generally agree with this (both the current behavior and the current issue), but actually, and maybe I should raise it as a separate question, but: I have on occasion answered a question I voted to close as Too Broad in an attempt to demonstrate to the user how broad the question actually is, since RPGs often suffer from questioners not realizing the size of the scope (both number of RPGs out there, and the amount of material for those RPGs I focus on). In the view of the moderation team, is this an acceptable practice, or does it fall under #1 here? – KRyan Apr 10 '17 at 23:11
• @dopplegreener I mean "we have site issues and contention around the community's implementation of putting questions on hold". In other words, we are putting questions on hold, but there's folks that get unhappy about it and get into fights (often not the OPs, but a small set of people who disagree with the fact the community's doing it). – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 1:29
• @KRyan we'd rather the question get closed and a comment explaining that it's too broad. An answer is really overkill to explain that in most cases I'd think. Plus I've noticed "in before the close" answers get downvotes, then people get stroppy about getting downvotes and request comments explaining why, and then people say why, and then the arguments start... – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 1:31
• @KRyan I think that'd be a good meta policy question. I think it would be nice if we could change our action there to only close too broad questions that we think are obviously too broad and leave secretly too broad questions open with a 'this is actually secretly too broad and here's why' answer. My main rationale here is that comments are ephemeral and also can't be downvoted so they don't make sense for something that's basically an answer. Also if I disagree with the closure and think I have an answer I don't really have much recourse to explain that to others besides a comment answer. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 5:31
• @KRyan Main obstacle, obviously, is figuring out what 'obviously broad' v.s. 'secretly broad' actually is. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 5:32
• Whenever I hear a term like "secretly broad" it's sure sign something's getting overcomplicated past the point where effective policy can work on it. Site policy can't just be for the illuminati - for example, if the site was just the high-rep folks game-recs would have worked, But they didn't, because the rules have to be accessible to Joe Shmoe Just Joined. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 12:31
• @KRyan generally comments are preferred. by answering a question that is doomed to close, wa are doing a few things. 1 - we're showing that a question can get answered even though it's a bad question. we don't want to encourage this particular behavior. 2 - we're preventing the auto-delete process from working if the answer gets an upvote, even if it doesn't actually answer the question (this can and does happen, far more often than I'd like...) – DForck42 Apr 12 '17 at 17:43
• @mxyzplk isn't there any way to prevent voting on answers put on hold, like happens when the topic is closed? – ShadowKras Apr 19 '17 at 15:06
• @ShadowKras We can apply an Historical Lock to individual answers or a whole question-page, but we don't use that casually. The alternative in such cases is deleting the Q itself if it's definitely off topic / unsalvageable; the reason mods don't often do that though is that it prevents reopen votes, so it's somewhat drastic until long after the hold shows it's permanently closed, and by then it's dropped off the front page and we don't notice them often afterwards. – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 17:59
• Sometimes questions get close votes for being unclear where I REALLY don't understand what could be unclear. When this is the case I tend to answer even if it seems doomed to be closed/put on hold. Perhaps the "closed for being unclear" should itself be made clearer? If it is unclear what is unclear about the question this causes uncertainty imo, that is. – Umbranus May 4 '17 at 8:21
• @Umbranus I assume you're talking about Doppel's prolific editing. My first advice would be to just not take it personally; having your post edited isn't a punishment, just an attempt to improve site content, and we've all had our stuff rewritten a bit (usually by Doppel). If you really have a problem with one or more edits that have been made to your posts, though (he edits a lot, after all), bear in mind that a) you are free to roll them back, and b) posting a meta question about the problematic edits is more likely to get you somewhere than a comment on this answer! – A_S00 May 4 '17 at 17:01
• @A_S00 It wasn't even my posting, so nothing personal. – Umbranus May 5 '17 at 10:25

We weathered a hostile user/sockpuppet attack very well.

One thing of note is that during this year we had a specific new user who quickly went off the rails, and then decided to create sockpuppets to continue to cause problems. It's hard to find socks once someone starts to put effort into it, so that person's still on the site. It was our first time on the site to really have a persistent adversary.

But, the disruption was limited by virtue of the community doing the right things and not rising to the bait, both initially and then in the long run. That user then seems to have given up being disruptive because it's just not fun here. Bad comments get flagged and deleted, hostile posts get edited, yelling on meta gets downvoted by all the site users that know how to behave. While he/she did get some peoples' goat, they chilled and let the process work instead of taking up their part in a conflict.

While we mods were the "tip of the spear" in responding to this when it happened, I believe it's just the community doing its thing that really brought the problem to a close.

Comment deletion levels are appropriate, even though it still upsets some users.

Remember, feel free to submit your own alternate answer... But I believe, and have seen other site members say, that our policy of deleting comments per Why are site comments being deleted? continues to make the site strong. Answers in comments circumvent the basic theory of the site, off topic comments hide the quality content in our answers, etc.

I believe that in general this works. Much of our comment deletion is flag-driven so I think others agree; they don't want arguments and clever quips getting in the way of the information either.

Some folks disagree. They want to discuss more. Or they had a good comment get deleted once - this happens. But comment deletion is routine and daily, and "I had a comment deleted once in '14 I liked and now I hold a grudge about it" overlooks the vast overall benefit to the site. Or people are concerned that "other SE/site X doesn't do it this way" - well, we're our own site and we have the freedom to implement SE best practices in the way that works best for us.

So while comment deletion a isn't perfect process, I believe it's currently at a level that reflects the majority view. You hate your joke going away, but it's less cruft for the other 5000 people hitting the site that day.

But how to make it less upsetting to folks that don't like it? We've tried linking metas, we've tried doing it with explanation and without explanation. The one thing I think has helped the experience is we do move long threads to chat instead of just deleting them now that we have that functionality, and that's helped some I believe, balancing in-context discussion with brevity - some users even have initiated those on their own, which is boss. I think more setting up chat when discussion starts is the best answer to balance the site hygiene with the desire for discussion.

• jokes are ok, but comments were only ever meant to be temporary. a quick wit comment is ok in the interim, but in the long run it gets in the way of people getting to what they want, the meat of the question and answer. I'm sorry that people don't like seeing their jokes disappear, but in the long run the site is about questions and answers, not comments. – DForck42 Apr 10 '17 at 20:13
• linking metas is good-- comments look like they work differently than they actually do so they are not new-user friendly. Chat is good, but we don't need a chat room on everything. People are less upset when they realize that comment deletion is the default option and it's not something they said or actually directed at them at all. – the dark wanderer Apr 10 '17 at 21:49
• I agree that move-to-chat has neatly all-but-solved the most pernicious problems with this. Still wish users had a voluntary version of this (that did not automatically delete the original comments, but opened the way for an obsolete/too-chatty flag for mod-clean-up, or for conversants to each delete their own comments), but that’s OK so long as moderators use theirs rather than deleting. Mods may also have have eased up on the trigger a bit? (I seem to recall Brian once deleting an actually-useful-and-I -wanted-to-incorporate-it comment thread in under half an hour, that really ticked me off) – KRyan Apr 10 '17 at 23:08
• Yes, as the community has stepped up we've stepped back, we now can trust that we'll get flags when comments are not useful - long threads, answers in comments, etc. So the pace is more sedate. The dynamic of us stepping down/the community stepping up has made a lot of improvements from what I can see. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 1:17
• @thedarkwanderer Totally agree that the comment feature has bad UX, especially for new users. I wish it had a different name and that there were more hints within the process of reading and writing comments that made it clear how they're not comments-like-on-most-sites. I find the mismatch frustrating, because it creates situations with new users that I have to defuse that otherwise wouldn't start at all. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 2:53
• @SevenSidedDie Has that suggestion been taken to Meta Stack Exchange? – BESW Apr 11 '17 at 9:31
• @BESW There are a couple I've seen (1, 2; note the prominent authors), which illustrate the problem: the proposal often runs aground on the rocks of what to replace the name with. Unfortunately I have no good ideas on that count either. (Naming Things Is Hard.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 14:49
• The heading on this answer confused me. When I upvote, am I doing it because I agree that the amount of comment deletions are appropriate, or am I upvoting because it upsets me (hypothetically)? – user27327 Apr 11 '17 at 17:29
• Changed header. To agree it's appropriate even if it upsets some folks. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 19:41
• I have to say I disagree that comment deletion is at appropriate level here, my subjective impression is that comments are deleted more aggressively here than at other SE sites and that this is particularly unhelpful here as many answers are more subjective than at other sites. A great deal of useful content is getting deleted as a result. – Jack Aidley Apr 12 '17 at 14:04
• @JackAidley you may want to add that as an answer to this Q and see if it can get traction then. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 14:32
• @JackAidley apropos of my "diversity of opinion" answer, I second mxy's suggestion that you post an answer along those lines. I think meta's much better served by having both "comment deletion is appropriate" and "comment deletion is too swift/zealous" answers to discuss, vote on, and compare than if we just have one or the other. – nitsua60 Apr 12 '17 at 16:50
• I essentially stopped visiting this site mostly because of this answer. I have no problem with mods cleaning up comments, particularly some that might suggest a partial answer. My problem was with how quickly those comments were being deleted, often within an hour. It essentially killed any sort of discussion on the question itself which could either improve the question or help lead someone to post a good answer. That's frustrating, and potentially also counter-productive. – Ellesedil Apr 17 '17 at 21:46
• Within the time I've been here, comment deletion has slowed significantly. I think it would benefit from slowing more. A year out, pristine answers are great! While still in the thick of things, they really aren't. As such, I hesitate to flag comments in conversations: "If I flag this, will the user it responds to even get to see it?" Overall right direction though. – fectin Apr 19 '17 at 0:22
• Comments that are answers and not for clarifying the question, indeed, they get deleted for cause as quick as they're flagged. Don't do it. – mxyzplk Apr 19 '17 at 3:17

### Handling subjective questions and answers is still messy

We have a popular category of question that gives community and diamond moderators some headaches: the advice or technique question.

These tend to be long on details, and require judgement, experience, and creative solutions to answer well. Unfortunately, they attract bucketloads of armchair advice as well. Often it's well thought-out advice, but it's unclear whether it's just made up and sounds good on paper, or actually works.

We expect our answers to subjective questions to be drawn from experience, and on that point, we expect such answers to provide that experience to help the voters evaluate the answers. It's very uncommon to do so, though!

These questions have been with us forever. They're very popular to answer, and voting tends to be highly active. They tend to draw a number of answers into the double digits.

We generally seem to like these questions.

But we're not sure how to handle them. The questions themselves are sometimes closed and reopened multiple times, and often involve a lot of comments to clarify and refine the question.

For mods specifically, we're not sure how to handle them. Closing the question is contentious and unpopular, and is sometimes hard to firmly justify. Getting hard-nosed about Good Subjective/Bad Subjective in the answers turns out to often be a losing strategy (with some exceptions), involving a lot of manual intervention, custom comments, and multiple rounds of interaction with the authors — if the authors even respond. When they don't, our only recourse is deletion of the answer, which is a heavy intervention for something that isn't blatantly off topic. In both cases, the improvement is overwhelmingly not proportional to the effort expended – sometimes it's even non-existent. Meanwhile, this direct, manual intervention from mods is extremely disruptive, and sometimes seems to create more bad blood than it seems to create positive change. Yet, just letting these questions run wild (and they do) doesn't seem to be desirable either.

I don't have any proposal for this — I just present it as an unresolved issue I think is currently facing the site. It's not a great situation, and it has no obvious solutions. This is a type of question where our quality-control tools built into the site appear to fail us.

I would say this is one of the larger unresolved content-based issues that is currently simmering on the site.

Only because it's currently an exemplar of the situation, showing all the spectrum of answer quality and the contentious hold voting, I provide as an example How can I best implement a recurring villain when the players are not opposed to killing?. I was just there attempting to implement the post notice solution to the issue, when I ran out of steam and the ability to judge fairly halfway through (it is exhausting) and removed all the comments and notices since I couldn't fairly only do some of them. Then I came here to write this post, which is one I had been intending to write even before that specific question was originally posted.

(Notably, the post has two pending flags on it that have just been sitting there, because as mods we can see clearly it's got some issues, but resolving them is non-trivial, and we don't want to just dismiss the flags and look away.)

There has been a lot of meta ink spilled regarding these questions. Some related reading:

• I hope that this would be less of an issue when the site gets more moderators (as you will have more human hours for handling this). – Baskakov_Dmitriy Apr 18 '17 at 12:45
• @Baskakov_Dmitriy This isn't really a mod issue. It's more that the community itself seems to be unsure how to handle these, so moving one active user from column A to column B won't really affect this. (And one more mod doesn't alter the problem of decision fatigue making manual curation prohibitive.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 18 '17 at 14:53
• I see this as one of the thornier community issues too. I think when I first came to this site, I had the tendency to upvote everything I agreed with, but I've come to realize that that sort of behavior is counterproductive if we want constructive and well supported answers. Lately, I've been taking a stance of methodically downvoting every answer on those types of questions where there isn't support/experience, even if I agree with the advice. – Eidolon108 Apr 19 '17 at 6:04
• I think maybe we need stronger criteria for GS/BS, like requiring that all answers on a question the mods or community flag as GS/BS have a section with an "Experience" header describing the experience you have with your proposed solution, or some other thing we can use to make clear examples of good answers. People can still make up their "experience", but the legitimacy of that section could be judged by voting on the answer – Eidolon108 Apr 19 '17 at 6:06
• Maybe this should be its own question? – fectin Apr 23 '17 at 0:16
• @SevenSidedDie real quick as this seems to have been a problem question that I answered while it was still system agnostic ... does my answer demonstrate a bad answer GS/BS or good, or something in between? Trying to get a barometer reading here. Once the question later went to 4e, after all of the back and forth, the answer was not as germane to the question as I'd no 4e experience to offer. – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 20:54
• @Korvin It's kinda moot on a closed Q since Schoedinger-like we don't know what Q that answer is supposed to align with until it's edited to draw open-votes. I'd leave it as-is; it's well-supported and can be adjusted or whatever need be done when/if there's an open Q to measure it against. (In the meantime too it may still help, in incidental ways, people hitting it from search/Google.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 21:26
• @SevenSidedDie thanks. Given a couple of high voted answers, and one accepted, I doubt any more activity will occur from querent end. – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 21:29
• @Korvin Probably! (But in the Long Now SE aims at, who knows what will happen with it a long time from now. Maybe it will be rehabilitated by future smart ideas we develop on meta.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 21:32
• @SevenSidedDie I'll have a glass of whatever you are drinking. 8^D – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 21:47
• @KorvinStarmast Most recently a dram of Highland Park 12. Not exceptional in any direction, but nicely characteristic of the Highlands regional style. – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 21:50
• @SevenSidedDie That'll do, in a pinch. – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 22:09
• Fastest Gun in the West is a problem here too. I have a couple answers to what turned out to be popular questions that I sometimes wish I could take back - not because I don't think they're decent, constructive answers, that technically adhere to GS,BS and are better than nothing, but because they're based on general experience, and I imagine that somewhere out there is someone with more specific experience who could write a better answer that more narrowly adheres to the spirit of GS,BS but is discouraged from doing so by the upvotes my "good enough" answer (and any others) already got. – SirTechSpec Apr 30 '17 at 6:11

## This is one of the more tightly run Stacks I've seen, and that's a very good thing considering the broader context of the RPG world online

First off -- hats off to the whole RPG.SE community for the tight ship we run here. We augment our diamond mods extremely well, to the point where even as a 5k user, I have had to do very little work around here because we have so many folks stepping up. (This is relative to the fact I have already cast over a thousand close votes on EE.SE in a span of 6 months -- that site has a nuts close vote queue!)

While the helpfulness dogpile phenomenon is an issue that nitsua rightly raises in his answer here, by and large, we don't suffer from the instant-abandonment that plagues DIY.SE or the near-curmudgeonliness of significant chunks of EE.SE (granted, that's hard to avoid given the volume of LQ stuff they get coming in vs. the main answering audience they have -- I can barely work the close queue on that site due to the sheer volume of questions that are the EE.SE equivalent of someone who hasn't read the PHB asking "how do I wizard in D&D 3.5e?"). This is an impressive achievement for a Stack working a topic where truth can be hard to come by and acrimonious debate is extremely common.

Speaking of that acrimonious debate, this is one of the few fora I've seen or even heard of that has been willing to take on the tough questions regarding playstyles and playstyle conflicts, problem players and GMs, and other such meta-table matters without devolving into argument or punting questions into the bleachers. I suspect the Q&A style of SE combined with the tight moderation is why we pull this off so well, and that's again something we should be proud of.

## Meta and chat both could use some more diversity in the regulars

I feel that some of our subcommunities are underrepresented, both in Meta and the chat. Right now, both fora are relatively evenly split between our Fate-folk and our traditional D&Ders among our regulars -- we could use some more folks from non-D&D trad game backgrounds, especially outside of fantasy settings. (Are all the runners out there afraid their Mr. Johnson will catch them in Stack chat and slap them silly for it? ;)

• Traveler also is under repped ... that is my perception. – KorvinStarmast Apr 12 '17 at 21:19

We have been more proactive in issuing mod-messages and suspensions

This came up and I realized we hadn't mentioned this and it bears mentioning, so full disclosure...

Back in the blowup last Feb, one of the things I say in my linked answer is that "we've never banned anyone from the site except the spammers." After the blowup when we were seeking advice from other SE diamond mods on how we could improve, that raised some eyebrows. "Well that's your problem right there." Talking with them and reviewing how we'd issued a bare handful of suspensions in 4 years of site activity, we realized that suspensions are not supposed to be some kind of "nuclear option" but instead are a well crafted escalating teaching tool. They let us know that we were significantly underusing that functionality and that could be contributing to the site toxicity level.

And it's not just about "the meanies." Here's the list of reasons we get from the Great SE Machine when we start a mod message as things that could lead to messages/suspensions when repeated despite warnings.

• consistently low quality questions over time
• question repetition
• sockpuppet upvoting
• abusive to others
• revenge downvoting
• self-destruction of useful content
• using signatures or taglines
• excessive self-promotion
• plagiarism
• something else...

Some of these are about people being rude, but some are about just normal bad content behaviors that are repeated. The more the community has to intervene in a user's content over time, the more likely fights will emerge. I think everyone could probably name a couple usernames where you had come to expect a large incoherent question every time, or the like.

So when issues repeat, we march down the list this functionality gives us. After it gets bad enough it's on our radar we message, then the suspension app itself suggests an escalating series of "cool-off" periods each time it recurs - 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, etc. It takes a lot of work to get up to the 365 day one, but some people have managed (the sockpuppet attacker was the first). An important thing to understand is that the offenses don't have to get "worse." If you come back from a 30d suspension for rudeness and say something rude, you're headed out again, it doesn't have to be "super rude"; if you are trying to skirt the line then clearly the learning process isn't over.

For some folks, it serves as an important message that "look - we are serious, you can ignore comments telling you not to do that but you can't just do anything you want here." For some, it has had to ramp up till they're on a long break (still a small handful). But it does help them - and the site - to cool off by not having the disrupting behavior.

No one likes hearing about suspensions, but I wanted to be transparent about this. I believe our using these features in a way similar to other SEs (instead of largely ignoring them) has contributed to the improved climate I see here over the last year. (I'm also active on Workplace and they finally year-suspended one of their top rep users... I was sad to see him go but agreed that it needed to happen, he had been chronically insulting folks at random.) People are of course welcome to appeal "unjust" suspensions to the community mods, and we tell them that, but the first question is "well, did you do the thing on the list they said you did?" and if the answer's yes, then that appeal probably isn't going to have legs. "But I like excessive commenting/being abusive to others/sockpuppeting/etc.!" "Yes... I am sure you do."

The fact no one has noticed we've changed this means we've still been pretty light on the trigger, but the improved climate from having fewer arguments and things to argue about has been positive IMO.

The conspiracy theorists may posit we are using this feature to "stifle dissent." Not really. If you look at the folks not around vs still around, I think you'll see our actual critics are still here whereas noob hotheads and the chronically incoherent are the ones that are gone. Certainly, if you post "The mods are stupid!" in comments across several main site questions, you'll be taking a nap, but same deal if you spray comments about "BESW is stupid!" Not nice is not nice, you know it when you see it. You have nothing to fear if you just take complaints to Meta and Be Nice. And again, suspensions can always be appealed to the community mods.

• I don't think we have a problem with this, as long as we're extra super light on actual low-rep users (i.e. people with next to no site experience). This site has one heck of a learning curve and the best/only way to overcome that is participation. Escalating suspensions, I'm pretty sure, won't help at all in that case. But in general this seems like a good idea. Mod messages, on the other hand, seem like they would be extra helpful to new users. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 16:52
• @thedarkwanderer Oh yeah, very low-rep users simply haven't participated enough to get anywhere near the record that triggers mod messages. Very low rep users who are becoming regulars also get lots of comment guidance and/or warnings long before they're anywhere near mod message territory. (The ones who are just signed up to mess with the site do quickly go to deletion though. That's only done in slam-dunk cases though, still — spammers, blatant trolls, etc.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 17:34
• @SevenSidedDie Okay, good :) And I think everyone's 100% behind banning obvious spammers-- that's not even a change in suspension/ban habits (actual human sock-puppet user incidents notwithstanding). – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:47
• Yeah, we use judgement; it depends on the thing. New users get a lot of slack on the low quality front; they don't get more slack than anyone else on the not insulting others front (if you get told once and keep it up, telling you twice isn't going to help). – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 19:42
• And now we know what the S stands for. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 11:36
• I do not know if I am being branded “conspiracy theorist” here, but I would suggest that this is not the label you want to be using to describe users who have concerns, questions, or objections to moderation here. And, ironically enough, I don’t have any particular concerns with this feature being abused. As you say, it’s been treated with utmost respect—even more than SE/other SE mods recommend—and I expect that respect will continue to inform how it is used, even if it gets used more. – KRyan Apr 12 '17 at 17:23
• @KRyan Oh no, that's referring to literal accusations that we issue suspensions for political convenience, to eliminate dissenting views or manipulate the population of opinions visible on the site, mostly received in response to private mod messages. It's definitely not users who voice concerns or objections to moderation — it's literally “how convenient that you have the power to suspend me and prevent my answers from competing with yours!” and similar things. Usually this goes hand-in-hand with being unwilling to accept the reason they were suspended at face value. – SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '17 at 19:15

As a fairly new user to only RPG.SE (just a couple months), I think RPG.SE is very well maintained. The content of questions and answers are usually always great quality thanks to the mods and high-rep users. Every time I've had a question on the main site, I've always been able to find another question that helped me in the way I was needing.

From what I've seen on the main site and meta, the mods and users are typically both very respectful. From what I see that others might perceive as "strictness", I see it more for maintaining quality questions and answers that can stay relevant. In my perceptive, it's about keeping the bar high. I came for the RPG content, stayed for great community.

• Then we are doing something right. yay team! – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 22:27

# Moderation, including community moderation, can be... terse

There are a lot of moderation-type-activities that are really repetitive - deleting answers in comments, moving discussions from comments to chat, and asking new users to specify what system they're talking about are just a few that come to mind. New users, old problems that never go away.

Now, as I understand it, moving comments to chat is an automated process that includes the boilerplate comment about what happened. But the other two, while tedious and repetitive from the perspective of experienced users and mods, are new and potentially confusing for new users.

We have some users (BESW comes to mind) who are great about going the extra mile to give a warm welcome, explaining in detail what they're doing and why, and inviting people to make constructive changes. Others (mxyzplk comes to mind, though they're far from alone) are much more matter-of-fact, to an extent that sometimes rubs me the wrong way, and seems, from what I can tell, to be more off-putting the newer you are (regulars who've seen such messages before and understand the reasoning don't think twice.) It's not about doing anything wrong, per se, just a style that IMO is suboptimal.

Mxy specifically defends this style, but if you like terse communication and you get warm, you might roll your eyes and feel mildly irritated; if you're expecting warm and you get terse, it can send strong subtextual signals along the lines of "you are wrong, and I personally dislike you too much (or think that you are too stupid) to waste my time politely explaining how and why." That's not a message we want to send, even unintentionally. So I think it's better to err on the side of warm, at least with new people who are still forming opinions about site dynamics.

Now, obviously, being super nice and polite all the time and explaining everything in detail is exhausting work - part of the reason I've stepped back from RPG.SE in the last several months is that I haven't had the energy to be confident that I was contributing well. But I think we have enough experienced users now with enough energy that between us, we ought to be able to be extra nice to all the newbies (including for mod-only stuff with a third active diamond mod). It's basically an extension of both mxy's answer about increased community moderation, and nitsua's point about not leaving less helpful comments if there are others who can leave more helpful comments a few minutes later.

TL;DR - If you can be polite, step up; if you don't have the patience right now, consider stepping back for a bit and seeing if someone else takes care of it.

• BESW, IIRC part of your secret is an auto-comment browser extension with templates. Would you consider doing a meta post collecting all the relevant resources? I seem to remember the technical aspect and at least two threads with templates/suggested form comments all being in different locations. – SirTechSpec Apr 30 '17 at 6:52
• It's posted on Meta and there may be another meta with similar info. The script from SO/SE is in Brian's initial post. Apparently the plug ins can be a bit buggy depending upon the browser one is using. PS, good answer, thanks for posting it as it articulates a few things that I was not able to put into a concise form. – KorvinStarmast Apr 30 '17 at 18:10

# Unconstructive criticism is still posted in comments, which are then deleted

In the question about AoE saves being rolled once by the DM which was asked by LegendaryDude, I posted a response that drew a lot of ire in the comments. Not from LegendaryDude (who countered some of the negative comments), but from others.

I am more than happy to see these arguments get deleted afterwards. The points that were gone over in those discussions served as a good place for me to improve the answer by addressing the issue more specifically. And as far as I understand, the down-voters disagreed with my approach to the solution and I so am happy to take those down votes.

What irritated me greatly, however, were those comments made by high-rep users such as "This answer doesn't understand math" or thereabouts: something posted to bash and undermine the effort that went into the answer, without justifying the action. As far as I know, that comment only got deleted. I don't follow people closely, so I don't know if this was a once-off behavior. But I hadn't thought to flag it at the time, and now it no longer exists for me to flag. My memory may be wrong, but I believe there were more than one such style of comment posted.

I am not sure how to address this myself. There is no down-vote for comments, only flags. And I am not sure how often it happens around this stack. But I did consider leaving after I witnessed such toxicity. Thankfully I took a break and cooled my head off before nearly deleting my account.

• Thinking on the way you put that last paragraph, flags probably more or less are the downvote button. Is the comment providing an actionable suggestion for improvement or request for clarification? It's probably a useful comment. Is it doing nothing useful? It's noise, and can be flagged for removal. A comment suggesting one doesn't understand math is an unnecessarily derisive thing to say even in constructive feedback, and I would've been inclined to flag it for removal in violation of our Be Nice policy. – doppelgreener Apr 11 '17 at 14:24
• @doppelgreener I have never flagged anything. I know you get a badge for that, but if you look through my profile, you'll surely not find I have it. So my reaction to this was not to flag but to wait until the mods come and clean it up. I knew they would, as SSD deleted a long argument between me and Szega (as well as many other people who seem to have been drawn in by this). If memory serves, it's after the first comment deletion that the nastier comments got posted; so I let the mods handle it as it was apparent to me they would. In hindsight, I wish I had flagged. But now I cant. – user27327 Apr 11 '17 at 14:46
• Something to take into consideration in the future. I'm sorry to hear you went through that experience, and I'd definitely suggest being more liberal with flagging in the future. Something that personally distresses you is at the very least worth a custom moderator attention flag asking for intervention or for moderators to take a look at something that might be over the line or getting out of hand. – doppelgreener Apr 11 '17 at 14:55
• Yeah, we come and clean up arguments when they're flagged... So flag, "waiting" means you're waiting for someone else to do it. Now of course we don't always delete all comments, upvoted ones may stand even if they disagree with you, and note "unconstructive" and "disagrees with you" are different. "You don't understand math" is certainly not constructive, I'm just making sure to say there's a difference. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 15:39
• @mxyzplk I'm aware of the difference. I made sure to say I'm happy to accept down votes in my answers, which I hoped would highlight that I welcome people to disagree with me, even if down votes decrease my rep and my answer's visibility. That moment to flag has come and gone. The more bitter part of the ordeal was the hostility, rather than the lack of initiative on my part to flag. I'm just putting it out there, this stuff still happens (my impression from other answers: it used to happen a lot). – user27327 Apr 11 '17 at 15:49
• Sure. In discussions like this we need to reinforce points for everyone and not just the poster, so I wanted to reiterate it. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 15:54
• This has been happening more often recently, by a significant margin. I used to be able to count on other users helping me with not doing this to each other when we disagree (and those specific users I still can), but now more and more I find myself either in a fight like this or the only party to a forming fight not investing. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:02
• I believe the problem is drive-by voting. Someone posts something offensively wrong (like you ask about the complexities of a rule in a given situation and someone throws the top result of google at you as if you hadn't already looked at that, while disclaiming that they know nothing about the system) and then within seconds it's getting upvotes because ???. If you post a 'actually that's not how this works' comment it's too late and that question is forever ruined on this site because the answer's already too upvoted to lose and will forever influence drive-by voting... – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:05
• If you flame early, drive-bys vote down. I'm not saying people should flame, drive by vote on stuff they aren't qualified to judge, or post answers on things they know nothing about that assume the querent is stupid, I'm just saying that these behaviors are self-reinforcing so it's easy to get sucked into this anti-pattern because incrementally the more emotionally aggressive your comments are the better they are received by the community, and the higher your rep goes. Simultaneously, the more LMGTFY your answer is the better it does in drive by voting. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:08
• Yes, please do flag that kind of thing proactively! Hostile commenting is something we might not visibly act on right now beyond deleting the comment, but we do want to keep track of it — if it's part of a pattern, we want to have a paper trail we can refer to later if we do need to intervene more directly with a user. Flags create “bookmarks” that we can look at later, so that we can review and see if there's a pattern or not, and what direction it's going in. (Flags aren't inherently black marks, so don't worry about hurting anyone with them. They just create a reminder for us.) – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 17:44
• @thedarkwanderer I feel like all the things you cited about drive-by voting happened in the linked question. – user27327 Apr 12 '17 at 10:18
• while I am glad I missed all of the drama, someone telling you that you don't know math boggles my mind. chin drop – KorvinStarmast Apr 27 '17 at 20:57

## We do well as far as diversity of games, and are fairly good about diversity of playstyles, but we could do better in a couple regards

We do very well at representing a broad cross-section of the RPG world as far as the games themselves. Again, this is something we should be proud of, as it seems that more traditional fora specialize on only a few games (there's no point in trying to ask a Fate or Shadowrun question on GitP, for instance). We also extend this to the games we try with each other as Stackizens -- I would have not been exposed to Roll for Shoes, Little Adventures, Dungeon World, or even Traveller if not for this Stack, and I know we as a Stack have tried to put other things together as well.

We also do a fairly good job of representing playstyles -- while the fallout from the RAW debacle was quite annoying for a while, our two main 3.5e experts have stuck with the RPG.SE program as a whole and are doing very well there since we decided tags-for-playstyles is not for us. (I think that's something we should decide as a generalization of the results of the RAW debacle combined with the "no meta tagging" rule of Stackdom as a whole, but that probably should be a whole another Meta question!)

Where we can improve, I feel, though, with representing and understanding playstyles is with understanding simulationist play. We grasp narrativist, fiction-first play extremely well out here in RPG.SE-land and also have a good understanding of balance concerns in various systems, which takes us a long way to dealing with the issues most tables bring to us, whether they focus on slash-and-hack (or run-and-gun) beer-and-pretzels play, tactical warfare, high intrigue no matter the setting, or epic character arc development.

Immersion-oriented simulationist play, though, whether it be in the grittier, DM-common-sense driven OSR styles that harken back to early AD&D or more modern rules-as-metaphysics styles that bring us to where Rules as Written matter the most, is something we have problems with at times. Granted, it is not an issue peculiar to us -- it is likely one of the toughest playstyles to grasp from the outside for anyone, and I, even as someone who tends toward that style of play, struggle to explain it to others. (If someone has ideas as to how we can improve on this, please share!)

• So on the one hand I'm a simulation/immersive player too and think people who don't play that way are totes missing out. But on the other hand, how is this actionable? I always find complaints around too much/too little of a given game or whatnot on the site to be shrugworthy; the only solution is to ask questions about the stuff you're interested in. What's the "right number" of Shadowrun questions? Should it be equal to the Shadowrun share of players? (10% according to Roll20). As a social site, the only way to drive certain content is to drive the content yourself so people can join. – mxyzplk Apr 12 '17 at 14:44
• @mxyzplk -- I think we need to find a way to understand the sim viewpoint better -- I suspect we struggle sometimes as a community with questions framed by that mindset. – Shalvenay Apr 12 '17 at 22:16
• I see it too, originally having come from that part of the triangle myself. I do think it's something that could be better, but I don't see a solution besides the standard observation that what we're good at reflects the userbase. In terms of “don't do that” kinds of pushes against sim stuff (“don't do that, encumbrance is no fun” and the like), that's part of what inspired Can we affirm that RPG.SE embraces a plurality of playstyles?, so do refer people to that when it'd be helpful! More tools like that could be good, if we can think of any. – SevenSidedDie Apr 13 '17 at 1:28
• The actionable PROBLEM here is that people post questions wanting answers from a specific playstyle but get answers from antithetical playstyles. The SOLUTION is multifaceted: 1) querents need ways to signal playstyle. Tags are good for this, but a common ethnographic taxonomy of playstyles does not yet exist (I use the C. Ross and Brian Ballsun-Stanton paper on answer approaches to rules questions sometimes, though). At present this means the querent needs to ground-up explain playstyle in question where relevant, which is a PITA. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 17:56
• 2) answers that fail to meet playstyle requirements need to be deletable, regardless of upvotes. They get upvotes because users at large don't really embrace a plurarity of playstyles. People see a question and immediately think "you're doing it wrong" and upvote the answer that says so the way they like, regardless of the querents attempts to make it really clear that no, actually, this is the way they want to play and, yes, actually, they are aware of other ways of playing and no, their group doesn't have those problems you think it has because you know nothing about the playstyle. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 18:00
• 3) people need to not frame-challenge playstyles without really thinking about it. Frame challenges are fine, but 'the real problem here is you are having badwrongfun' is not an answer I think really applies to very many questions. ALSO when you frame challenge you need to answer the question in addition, and we need to be better about enforcing that. – the dark wanderer Apr 13 '17 at 18:04

Sometimes I wish we were less aggressive about closing questions.

Sometimes I'll see a question go by, and I'll say to myself: "I could give a good answer to that! I could post an answer that would be helpful to the person asking the question and to other people reading the site. But, this question violates one of the site rules -- like, it's too broad, or it's opinion based -- so it's inevitably going to get closed."

Waxeagle wrote: "...one of the best gifts we can give to a new user is a rapid close with a strong comment about what can be fixed followed by a rapid reopening." But, in practice, when a new person posts a question and it gets closed, they tend to leave the site and we never get to answer their question.

I'm on this site because I like answering people's questions; people post questions on the site because they like getting answers. When moderation steps in and prevents questions from getting answers, it feels like that's not serving the needs of either group.

(I've brought this up before. SevenSidedDie wrote here: "The asker will come back and fix it if it's important to them. And if they don't care enough to return and fix it, it's better that it stay closed anyway.")

Now. RPG.SE is a really active and healthy community compared to some others I've tried, so from a certain perspective, whatever the moderators are doing is working and we shouldn't mess with it. And I'm not even sure what we would change to fix this issue.

But -- well -- you asked if there was anything bothering me about the community, and this still bothers me, so I thought I'd mention it again.

• Many new users view closure/hold as a rejection of the question, not as an opportunity to edit/improve/clarify. Thanks for making this point. – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 16:25
• I have this same issue but from a different angle. Sometimes a tiny portion of the user base sees a question as opinion based or too broad or whatever. Effectively that's their answer to the question at hand-- most people say "the right choice is X", some people say "the right choice is Y", and a small minority says "There's no way to tell it's just your opinion everything is relative GRAHHHHHH"... – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:14
• If you trigger even a small portion of the base's moral relativism or whatever, your question is getting closed. Plus if people think there is no answer they're more likely to close as too broad than to leave a thing open. Because it is so, so much easier to close a question than to open it this is a big problem. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 17:16
• I think most new folks don't get closes they get "on holds" and I see most of the on holds get successfully resolved... Just going to look at the front page now, there's only one closed-as-dupe, but a large number of those open questions were on hold at one point, but they got fixed and reopened. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 19:47
• While I agree with your diagnosis of symptoms, I don't think changing our closing policies is a useful cure. Better comment culture (more friendly explanation and links, fewer brusque commands and less dogpiling) and less aggressive downvoting on new user questions (-1 gets the message across; -5 is unnecessary) are probably the way to go on this. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 4:10
• @mxyzplk rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/97925/… seems to be a recent example: it's a question where people seemed to have a strong desire to answer but felt frustrated because the question was closed. I agree that we would have liked more information, but I think the question was still answerable, and I wish the community hadn't voted to put it on hold. – Dan B Apr 13 '17 at 4:08
• So here's the deal. If the OP hasn't come back to answer clarification questions - then those answers will not benefit them. This is the crux of the on-hold/fix/reopen cycle - many (most) of the times it doesn't work is because, due to the magic of the Internet, someone pooped out a question and wandered off forever. Getting answers to those helps them how? If that OP wants some answers they might say something - anything - else and get engaged by the community. – mxyzplk Apr 13 '17 at 4:26
• Can one of our data wizards tell us the actual rate at which closed questions are reopened (and left open) vs. closed forever? Preferably excluding close-dupes, which I think we usually (though not universally) agree are for the best? – SirTechSpec Apr 30 '17 at 18:15
• @SirTechSpec Overall, 30% of closed questions are reopened and remain open. That includes dupes, though. More detailed, but time-limited stats are available on this page for users with sufficient rep. Within the last 90 days, 17% of opinion-based questions were reopened, 28% of too broad, 38% of unclear, 17% of dupes, 2% of off-topics. – Miniman May 1 '17 at 12:15

## We can't afford to loosen up on the moderation much more than our regulars have already proposed, probably ever

Sadly, the broader context we operate in is quite an acerbic one, and we can tell from how it spills over into our Stack. New users come here with their fight-or-flight instincts primed from previous RPG forum experiences, expecting either to be answered no-questions-asked or heckled and argued with. This makes our new user moderation far more delicate a task than it is on other Stacks. Aviation, for instance, is able to get away with a somewhat looser moderation style because of the surrounding culture it lives in; namely one largely of professionalism and precision, mainly out of necessity, and even with new users from outside the surrounding culture, the workshopping process flows far more smoothly there.

While avoiding dogpiling will definitely help in defusing the instincts of new users who would otherwise treat a help dogpile as an attack on their question or, worse yet, as a personal attack, this may be the biggest problem we have to work out how to defuse if we want to make RPG.SE more attractive to new users. In a way, this is a clash between online-RPG-forum argument culture, where dominance is established through argument over matters of opinion and a new user's only hope to gain respect is to argue their way into the community, and Stackizen culture, which is largely a self-critical, professional culture similar to that which surrounds say Aviation.SE. (Even traditional fora covering aviation are largely recognizable as reasonable discussion from what I can tell from the threads I've read, whereas fora in the RPG space become almost bewildering in the tone and forcefulness of their arguments -- they're applying the kind of stern tone I reserve on DIY or EE for "you are trying to do something horribly dangerous to life and limb" to something that is purely a matter of fun, and worse.)

## We could use a replacement for wax eagle, as he got kidnapped by a dragon ;)

Right now, I do feel we are short diversity in our diamond mods -- not that SSD and Mxy don't do a good job on the whole, but I really feel we miss the deeper understanding someone who is rich in RPG metatheory and game design knowledge could bring to the moderation team. (Basically, a Brian-lite -- I don't think Brian will be doing another moderation stint for a while, and we lost one of our finest metatheory minds in Bankuei from this community a while ago which saddens me greatly, but we still have a few folks about who could bring this viewpoint to the mod team if they were up for it.)

• We got two. :-) – KorvinStarmast May 8 '17 at 10:54
• Why did we lose Bankuei? I seem to have missed that… ☹ – Sardathrion Jun 30 '17 at 10:55

Personally I feel that the site is overly strict and doesn't represent the RPG community as a whole, over emphasises the rules-lawyering aspect of it, and doesn't match the expectations you get from working with other SE sites.

I appreciate that the RPG community does have a fairly hefty history of flame wars and that there's no point in letting it erupt here but at the same time I wouldn't consider recommending this site as a resource for someone in need of an answer because there's so little room for leeway in the process of asking a question. If a newbie gets it wrong first time they are often repulsed by the swift and firm response.

I just wish things could be 10% more mellow.

Addendum - I was checking on mxyzplk and 7sided's activity profiles and noticed that both are nearly identical in terms of what they are interested in, mostly pathfinder/dnd and gm-technique. Although that's probably representative of the whole community it does leave us with a very narrow field of focus within our mod crew.

I'd like to see things approached from different angles other than the mechanistic approach of D20 systems, it feels that such an approach does not do well when moderating storytelling type systems where the rules are more 'bendy'. Players primarily from systems like WoD will have quite different expectations than those primarily D20.

• I suspect the appearance of preference for "the rules-lawering aspect" (as you put it) is a side effect of a couple of unavoidable Stack phenomena: (1) Rules issues are at home in our formula while other issues aren't necessarily; (2) Good answers either cite objective fact, which is easy for rules, or for subjective questions they must cite first-hand experience, and it's easier to get this wrong (or not do it & armchair speculate, which isn't OK). Both of these mean we do go harder on non-rules posts, but we're not setting out to do that, it just happens in the course of curation. – doppelgreener Apr 13 '17 at 13:41
• There are some spots where I'd like to see us mellow out in terms of how we handle closures on some types of questions. When I have the time & energy to actually figure out how to write that, I'd be interested to see if it resonates. – doppelgreener Apr 13 '17 at 13:47
• I view this site the same way I view Christianity.SE. Please read this short answer I posted on that meta to understand what makes the SE model preferable to users who are tired of the horrible signal to noise ration on most internet sites. Signal to noise ratio needs to be favorable, or it isn't doing the SE thing correctly. (I'm looking at you, SF/F SE, as well as those folks at History.SE who are trying to get out of beta). Suggest you type in "hostility" into the search bar here on meta, four of five Q/A addressing "site feel." – KorvinStarmast Apr 13 '17 at 16:16
• Two things: 1) we have a strong narrativist subcommunity within RPG.SE, so it's rather not true that this is RPG-Rules-Lawyer.SE -- what you're seeing is the fact that the systems that our narrativist subcommunity favors are designed for their playstyle and also have fewer moving parts to break down or jam up -- most of the "rules-lawyer" questions on this site have to deal with interactions between rules in complex, exception-based systems like the various D&D editions. – Shalvenay Apr 14 '17 at 4:28
• ... and 2) re: non-rules questions -- we are aggressive in our curation of them, but that's a good thing in that we are able to get people to explain problems more clearly that way, and also in that it helps enable us to deal with extremely tough topics as a community without getting utterly(!) lost in the noise of playstyle flamewars, "badwrongfun" accusations, and unsubstantiated opinion. – Shalvenay Apr 14 '17 at 4:35
• Yeah, the trick is these getting asked in a way that's not just "share your thoughts on this general theme with me." I prefer techniques questions to rules questions strongly and like storytelling and roleplaying (now that I'm playing Dungeon World I have no rules questions and am not sure how you would have a rules question that survives 30 seconds at the table). SSD and I strongly support more of that content, it's just sometimes work to get it into the format, which was designed for code questions. But helping them edit and not letting them just be discussion threads is the right answer... – mxyzplk Apr 26 '17 at 1:10
• A note about account profiles: They're misleading. Personally, my interests are much stronger in the realm of indie games. You should see my collection of niche and esoteric games. The only reason that PF and D&D show up so high in my profile is that these are overwhelmingly the questions that get asked on the site. If I answer a question about PF I get a +20 or so easily, but if I answer a question about HeroQuest I get a +1 or +2. That means that no matter my interests, if I ever touch a “big” games' questions, they will suddenly dominate my account profile. – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '17 at 18:09

## The operating differences between this and other Stacks could be more transparent

I've been a longterm user of Stack Overflow, and came here expecting a QA site that mimicked the style of SO, but focusing on RPGs. I did get that, but certainly not in the way I expected... My comments vanished without explanation, my posts were edited in ways that I was a bit uncomfortable with, and so on. I now recognize these traits for what they are - the result of a culture focused on keeping this Stack focused and high-quality - but my initial interactions with RPG.SE were really confusing as a seasoned SO user.

I think it would be a good idea to create a collection the meta posts where these operating principles were distilled, and find a way to make it highly visible to new users - particularly those migrating from other Stacks. I find it odd that we're seemingly okay with confusing people that are familiar with our format.

• We just created a meta post that in an index of all out FAQ meta posts, and it includes am entry on comment deletion. I don't think we have anything on editing like you mention, though without a specific case it is hard to be sure. – diego May 2 '17 at 18:19
• I've noticed that people coming from Stack Overflow tend to be startled by whichever other Stack Exchange site they arrive at. Each SE site has its own particular set of priorities and guidelines tailored to the subject and behaviour of that topic's wider online community, and unfortunately we have very little control over our own help pages. – BESW May 3 '17 at 1:27
• @diego - Yes! I actively looked for this after my first couple days on the site. Good work, y'all. – Conduit May 3 '17 at 1:47

## We are a shining star in the dark, and that's a good thing, but being a beacon in the darkness is not enough in the wider online-RPG world

I leave you with a question: how can we apply the lessons of the pre-accident investigator (note, linked video is 45mins long) to what ails the online-RPG culture as a whole? How can we bring even a few of the lessons we have learned here on this Stack about supporting multiple, widely-separated playstyles and radically different systems side-by-side, tackling tough metatheory and game design issues in an accessible way, and understanding the root causes of common table-botches to other RPG communities?

• This question doesn't seem like the right place for this idea. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 4:02
• @BESW -- yeah, it kind of got left out in the cold when the post was split chuckles – Shalvenay Apr 12 '17 at 4:11
• @BESW -- should I try to expand this into its own Meta post in the near future? – Shalvenay Apr 12 '17 at 4:11
• That'd be more appropriate, yes. Maybe ask the chat to workshop it with you. – BESW Apr 12 '17 at 4:12
• @BESW -- yeah -- I'll have to give it a shot when I'm not so tired... – Shalvenay Apr 12 '17 at 4:13

The existing moderators should resign, and let new moderators be elected.

The moderation on RPG SE is so wildly out-of-line with any other site on the SE network that it's an ongoing blemish for SE. Aggressive moderation in questions, answers, and comments is unparalleled. A highly narrow and intrusively bureaucratic interpretation of SE guidelines is taken in contrast to all the other sites with which I am familiar. The prior Meta threads had their most-upvoted answers ignored in favor of lower-voted moderator answers. That's crazy.

I would challenge anyone with access to the data to compare proportional moderator activity here (including closures, deletions, and comments) to non-moderator activity, versus any other SE site. This definitely appears to be an outlier.

The only way this can be improved is for the existing moderators to pass the torch to other members of the community.

• We've had many site users compare and contrast us to stricter SEs (Christianity, etc) as well as less strict ones. But in the end, this isn't actionable. What policies specifically do you agree or disagree with? I imagine many of them are above, but put in others for the community to vote on. I'll also note that we've had three different moderator "regimes" on the site (I've only been in the last 2, I wasn't one of the initial diamonds) and oddly it's been pretty consistent, almost like it is suiting the community and not just a couple rogue power-trippers. – mxyzplk Apr 11 '17 at 1:25
• For some perspective, other than stricter SEs like Christianity.SE and similar, we often compare ourselves to RPG sites outside SE to see how we're doing — after all, we're serving overlapping communities. That's part of the reason for applying the full intent of SE rules instead of letting them slide (e.g., not permitting discussion use of comments at all), because RPGers are generally very passionate, quick to argue, and the wider community has many holy wars that we do not want to host. Yes, there are SEs that are looser about the rules than here, but they aren't about RPGs. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 2:59
• On the point of data: to clarify, do you mean deletion of comments, or on the posting of comments? AFAIK there is a SEDE query around here somewhere for who has posted the most comments. (I'm not sure what that would show relevant to this though.) If it's deletion of comments though I'm not sure what that data is worth — deleting comments will always (and everywhere at SE) be overwhelmingly disproportionately done by mods, simply because the non-mod ability to do so is so constrained and patchwork. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 3:08
• I have a sincere question: can you provide some context to your claims? It sounds like you've had a bunch of unpleasant experiences, but I don't have any idea what they were. At a bare minimum, let us know the other sites to which you're comparing this moderation, links to the metas you mention, some clarification of what stats you'd like (there are SEDE experts reading your post), and your thoughts on what the impact to the community of all this is. Is it that people are unhappy? That we're losing good members? That we have no experts in ____ because of our moderation reputation? Thanks. – nitsua60 Apr 11 '17 at 4:05
• I'm almost always sincere. When my better judgment fails me and I write something not sincere, I suspect others can tell because there are teeth in it, or (not-so?) subtle sarcasm. If I'm failing to react sufficiently negatively or something, and that's coming off as insincerity, that's just because there's no percentage in engaging in bad faith with this kind of post. So, that said, I'm still curious about what data on comments you meant? It's not obvious, and I'm failing to resolve the ambiguity from the context. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 4:20
• Dude, no. I have problems with the mod actions here sometimes, and some of the users I respect have serious problems with the mod actions here frequently, but this is 1) not the solution 2) not a solution 3) disrespectful to the effort the mods put into the site as well as to them as people 4) actively harmful to people with actual reasonable problems with moderation because it makes the mods more likely to point at people like you and say "you disagree with me, you must be like this guy" (that's also a problem with moderation but that's neither here nor there). – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 5:17
• Furthermore, our site is WAY better than many other SE sites, and a lot of that has to do with our heavy-handed, proactive moderation. That's not just the diamond mods, mind you, that's everyone here. We are a strong community dedicated to high-quality discourse and that means acting with a bit of humility and letting people shut you down without fighting back every now and then. Our questions are good. Our answers are good. We have a diverse site-base and tolerate answers and questions from any background. We are so, so much better than average. – the dark wanderer Apr 11 '17 at 5:20
• If moderator action is so extremely unrighteous as to merit their removal, that's something to bring up to their overlords who take such things very seriously. This answer won't get actionable attention on the issue. – BESW Apr 11 '17 at 9:41
• @BESW: I have used that contact, and what I get back is clearly a form letter saying, "Generally, if you have a question about a site or an action taken on it, the best place to ask is on Meta", etc. Follow-up contacts got no response. – Daniel R. Collins Apr 11 '17 at 12:40
• Daniel, you make an assertion and fail to back it up. I am not sure why you decided to launch an ad homenim attack on the mods (volunteers) rather than provide something concrete. I've had my disagreements with a couple of the mods, but we've also in general sorted it out and they do a decent job. The key to this community's health is COMMUNITY moderation, which I believe has seen an uptick. (I certainly try to do my part). Down voted due to an unsupported assertion and borderline ad hom. – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '17 at 13:02
• @DanielR.Collins I have a hard time believing it would: another user (me) has specifically asked for that sort of elaboration, and lots of other users have seconded that request. (I think it's fair to call 7 "a lot" in the context of a meta discussion.) Furthermore, if that actually were to happen all of us participating in this discussion would see the bad behavior you allege. Right now all we've got is your unsupported claim. I don't see how adding the sort of support I describe is anything but a win-win for someone holding your viewpoint. And I have genuine concerns about maintaining... – nitsua60 Apr 11 '17 at 13:52
• ...and growing the diversity of viewpoints found in meta, so I really do hope you'll help out by sharing your experience. I'm not kidding. The answer I'm trying to wrap my head around posting to this question is basically "I'm concerned about a lack of diversity of opinion in meta discussion." (Some discussion of that in chat here if you're interested.) – nitsua60 Apr 11 '17 at 13:53
• @DanielR You've declined to explain to mods what specific bad stuff they're doing, invited questions from other members, and then also declined to answer to those other members the bad stuff mods are doing, because of theories about what mods would do. Nothing useful is going to come from this kind of evasiveness. If you want us to work with you on improving the site, you need to work with us, too: be specific. You seem concerned over your question's closure, but we gave you clear and simple guidance for reopening it. – doppelgreener Apr 11 '17 at 14:32
• Regarding your held “too many topics” question, yes, that Standard Operating Procedure. No, that won't happen to your posts for merely being yours. The post itself has a problem, and we (the community, not just the mods) are still waiting for you to edit your question down to one question (and optionally post your second question in a second question post), as has already been clearly explained. No-one is preventing you. If you decline to do that, that's fine, but attempting to blame others for your decision and inaction… that dog won't hunt. – SevenSidedDie Apr 11 '17 at 17:18
• @SirTechSpec You may find this useful, and perhaps this as well. – BESW Apr 30 '17 at 12:25