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There seems to be a cavalier attitude to closing questions and deleting comments. As a newcomer to the site, it's off-putting. I would like to see a change in the core moderation philosophy here. I want the rules to be enforced on posts or comments that are causing a problem, not enforced through some holy doctrine of respecting "THE RULES".

Look at this question: Why is the Basilisk’s CR so low?.

It's closed purely on a semantics. The original poster didn't put his question into precisely the right form, so it gets closed. The questions is clear, clearly answerable (and indeed answered), so why should it be closed?

It's closed because the OP didn't speak in the correct words. To me, it seems like it was not a good reason.

I understand that this comment may not be well received, so please take it as it's intended, an impression from the perspective of an outsider who wants to participate in this community.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for volunteering your experience. Can I ask you for a little more focus: what problem for the site do you see current moderation culture creating? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '17 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Why are site comments being deleted? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 27 '17 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Segfault, you are not the first to recently bring up this site's over-moderation. rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7249/… \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jun 27 '17 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Beyond the usual problem with latent hostility to new users that is an artifact of SE sites? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 27 '17 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Here's the right link: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/38373974#38373974 \$\endgroup\$ – godskook Jun 27 '17 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Ah. Context. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 27 '17 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 specific problem? I'm not sure, just trying to share my experience. When I encountered this, I closed the browser tab and navigated away from the site in irritation, instead of browsing for another 10-15 minutes like I normally would. I almost decided to just disengage from the site altogether, but decided to post this instead. What can actually be done about it? I don't know... maybe nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 27 '17 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Segfault so would it be fair to say you're reporting experience that you think is likely to drive down new user satisfaction, retention, conversion, &c.? (And almost/sorta did in your case?) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '17 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 yes, indeed. \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 27 '17 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Segfault can I also ask if there are other RPG sites where you regularly participate, to which you're comparing this one? Or are you feeling that there's too much moderation in a vacuum? (If you're comparing us to someone else in your mind, I think that'd be good to share in the post.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '17 at 23:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast are you talking about overt hostility? If so, I think that calls for some flagging or at least a dedicated meta. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 28 '17 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 No, latent hostility that is casual and almost un noticed via tone, of an in group to new comers. Nothing overt. The ins have already figured out the norms. I remarked on it more than once here after I arrived, usually in comments on a meta. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 28 '17 at 3:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Protonflux put it pretty clearly here \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 28 '17 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast thanks for the pointer. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have spotted that post on my own, flash-in-the-pan as it was. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 28 '17 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ And as usual, the question in question has been improved and reopened in the time the complaints took... Putting a question on hold is usually a temporary thing and easily remedied. The result is better questions, better answers, and a better site, which I believe attracts more people than the brief sads send away (unprovable, of course). \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jul 4 '17 at 2:43
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This is the way the Stack runs

I understand your frustrations, and I've been around for a much shorter period of time than the high rep Stackizens around here, so I haven't personally experienced the issues Doppelgreener alludes to in his answer. They are legitimate issues, and you can read through the Stack's history on policy by browsing the meta.

However, there is nothing you can do about this. The one who must adjust is you.

The Stack is not friendly to question askers

The Stack format in general is not welcoming to new users, so I am taking this for granted. The Stack, in general, is not user friendly. This is not the same as "hostile," but it can seem unwelcoming to a new user.

In a forum, when you start a thread, that thread doesn't usually get closed for being chatty or opinion-based. Not so for the Stack, in general. When you open a new question, it has to meet certain standards or it gets closed.

In my own meta question about why we say information in the body of the question, when the tag already shows it, in the comments to an answer from Doppelgreener, I was shown this blog post: Optimizing for Pearls, not Sand.

Jeff Atwood (the designer of this site) mentions that the Stack is optimized for answerers, not question askers. We see this in this quote he chose to highlight:

Users intuit that answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A; system and tend to favor answers in their voting.

And he says this explicitly here (emphasis not mine):

Perhaps you’ve noticed a theme here. Incoming questions are a universal constant, all around us in countless billions. But answers — truly brilliant, amazing, correct answers — are as rare as pearls. Thus, questions are merely the sand that produces the pearl. If we have learned anything in the last three years, it is that you optimize for pearls, not sand.

Optimization for answerers is, of course, going to come at the cost of question askers. We see this in his final paragraph (emphasis not mine):

We feel that the world is awash in questions, but not answers. Answers are the real unit of work in any Q&A; system. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to maximize the happiness and enjoyment of answerers. If this means aggressively downvoting or closing unworthy and uninteresting questions, so be it.

This is a central design philosophy of the Stack, and in particular, RPG.SE upholds this philosophy very strictly. Questions which do not conform to the standards we set do not have a home here.

(My own opinion is, this is not a good design philosophy; it is also factually incorrect for RPG.SE specifically. But I mention it here because it is central to your issue.)

New Users tend to be most affected by this

When a question is put on hold, new users tend to see this as the rejection of their question rather than as an opportunity to improve the quality of the question. Indeed, being put on hold is a rejection. The Q has not met the standards of the site, and now the asker is given some time to mull it over and improve it. Once it has been improved, it usually gets reopened quickly. The initial putting of the Q on hold, however, could cause new users to disengage altogether.

There is also the chance that new users will tend to ask questions before they write answers, if they're also new to the system they're curious about.

This combination: that new users tend to ask questions, and that questions put on hold are seen by the new users as rejections of their questions; means that the lack of user friendliness of the Stack in general, and RPG.SE in particular, will definitely hit new users the hardest.

This is seen as a Good Thing

There is a popular notion here: if you are not willing to adjust to the Stack, then you are better off not spending your time here, and the Stack is better off not seeing you spend your time here.

The things you have to adjust for are all geared to create a good and orderly user experience for everyone -- at least, in theory:

  • Write high quality questions

  • Write high quality answers

  • Be nice and respectful to all

  • Don't chat in comments

  • Tag questions appropriately

So of course, if you (the hypothetical you) are not willing to adjust to these rules, you are most likely going to be a problematic user. This is not the place for you.

(I do have a differing opinion, once again. But this is another key notion RPG.SE users accept, and it is relevant to your issue.)

On "heavy handed" moderation

The moderation of this Stack is done primarily by the non-moderators, so there are no fingers to point to when saying the quick question closing should be blamed on the mod team. However, questions are closed quickly, and sometimes the mod team takes the flak for it (especially because comments vanish quickly).

You can see people airing their frustrations in this heavily down-voted answer calling for moderators to step down, this other answer wishing for friendlier comments to new users while moderating, this answer wishing we would not close questions right away, this answer airing out how strict he/she perceives moderation by the mod team to be, and this very heavily downvoted answer calling for the mod team's resignation, this relatively high rep user's complaints about too much moderation, and finally, this new user's rant about upvoting/downvoting being so strict on RPG.SE.

Understand that the mod team is not that strict -- if they delete comments, that's because someone (probably a high rep user) flagged them for deletion. Most questions are closed by the community, most duplications are done by the community.

Nonetheless, the frustration around the attitude of the community on question handling exists, has been aired many times, and has not really seen a resolution. I believe it's simply because that's how the Stack is supposed to run.

Dealing with dissatisfaction with this process

Frequently, when people air their concerns, they are asked for specific instances that can be corrected, or to justify their feelings that there is something to be corrected. You can see this in Doppelgreener's answers, as well as the comments your Q received.

Usually, people cannot really name one specific instance that they see. It's just a general feeling they get. Coming to meta and airing out these frustrations, and then being asked to justify yourself, is a bit like going to the doctor and saying "it hurts, but I don't know where" and the doctor going, "if you can't tell me where it hurts, I can't help you." Yes, the doctor can't help you, but it still hurts. Then you will tend to see another doctor who can do a better job.

This is RPG.SE: if you cannot fit into the mold, then we will show you another place where you might be fulfilled (forums, or RPG.SE's chat), but ultimately, we cannot help you.

Usually, this is where people end with, "we hope you stick around and see how things run here, as we do value your contributions." This is true, because as a potential content creator, your input is very much held in high regard, but it is only half-true. We value your contributions if they fit our mold, and some content we value more than others (hence, upvotes and downvotes). We are not willing to expand or bend the rules we've already established (they have been wrought through much discussion, debate, and even strife; they are thoughtfully made and are there for a reason) -- you may try to change us, but it will be a difficult climb. So we hope you adjust yourself to us, following which, you join and participate.

The RPG.SE mold is not for everyone, and this is seen as a Good Thing. It is really on you if you are willing to accept this perspective. However, it is both useful and fun to ask and answer questions here. You said you nearly disengaged from the site, but posted this Q instead. If you are alarmed by our attitude or philosophy, I advise you to weigh the perceived pros and cons of your participation in RPG.SE and decide based on that. Whichever decision you choose will receive the support of the Stack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree that "Questions which do not conform to the standards we set are not valued." is factually inaccurate. Many questions have value without having a home here — most of us enjoy those questions on other sites, where the system and purpose are different and built to accommodate them. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 4 '17 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I've updated my answer, the sentence now reads "Questions which do not conform to the standards we set do not have a home here" which hopefully distances itself from the idea that the Qs the Stack considers as low quality are without value. Yes, the low quality Qs can have value elsewhere, but I was saying they are not valued by the Stack; or, in your words, they do not have a home here. This would now move that statement from "factually inaccurate" to "accurate." \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jul 4 '17 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain thanks. I've decided that my primary complaint is that the question was closed on semantics, and the answer is that semantics are important to the users of this site, and this answer really helped me to understand that. So, no foul. \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jul 5 '17 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm concerned by the last paragraph here -- we are willing to expand or bend our rules, but only if there's merit in doing so. We also can accept it when people feel there's something awry but can't name an instance -- if it resonates, people will be able to respond because they recognise it too. We just can't handle it well when no issue specific enough for us to handle is identified. In this case the issue was a perceived sense of over-moderation borne out of people acting on signs of potential trouble that weren't explained well in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 5 '17 at 22:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener In theory, yes, we can bend the policies, but in practice, it is a difficult upward climb. I haven't seen it actually happen. If Segfault championed bending the rules on semantics (ex., opening a meta about not closing a clear question with bad semantics), he will find strong resistance. About handling issues without being able to name an instance: in this case, I share Segfault's frustration about question handling, so there is a bit of resonance (referring to the "resonance" you mentioned). But the end result is, Segfault and I just have to understand, it is the way it is. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jul 6 '17 at 1:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Nonetheless, I've updated the A to show there is a chance the Stack bends its rules, but with difficulty on the part of the change-maker. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jul 6 '17 at 1:50
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It's closed purely on a semantics. The "querent" (ugh that word) didn't put his question into precisely the right form, so it gets closed. The questions is clear, clearly answerable (and indeed answered), so why should it be closed?

It’s closed as primarily opinion based. The comments explain this. It looks like a discussion starter to me and we avoid those. There’s a few different things they could potentially be after, so we’d like to seek some clarification before more answers arrive so that we don’t have a mess to clean up. It was closed an hour ago. If the author works with us, it’ll probably be clarified and reopened pretty quickly again. If the community at large doesn’t think it was actually primarily opinion-based at all, we’ll have 5 reopen votes in not too long.

You’re clearly alarmed by this so I imagine you’re not used to stuff like this occurring on other Stack sites you’re a member of. This is pretty ordinary for us, doesn’t cause major problems, works out to the benefit of everyone (including the question owner), and saves us trouble down the line. Stick around a bit longer and you can see how it shakes out. Our activity level lets us handle situations like this fairly well, and we can do things more busy sites cannot. I see you’re a member of Stack Overflow; brace for things to be different here. You might see other alarming stuff but we’ll be genuinely interested in helping explain what’s going on and why we’re doing it — or in taking action on it if it alarms us too.

If you want to be well received then a major part of that is just being polite and respectful with us. We also want the site to work well, just like you might. We are willing to engage constructively, respectfully and in good faith with you on improving it when there’s major problems occurring because we want to avoid them, but only if you approach us similarly. Flippant or rude behaviour will have community members withdraw their goodwill and tempt them to respond in kind, and it will prompt them to send a clear signal of a post being not OK via downvotes.

You guys need to chill with closing questions and deleting comments. As a newcomer to the site, it's off-putting. I would like to see a change in the core moderation philosophy here. I want the rules to be enforced on posts or comments that are causing a problem, not enforced through some holy doctrine of respecting "THE RULES".

This paragraph seems to complain that we enforce our rules, but that’s not really a legitimate complaint we can handle. We have those rules because we have experience with certain problems erupting, and find that handling things this way prevents those problems erupting in the first place. Yeah, we respect and enforce the rules, what else would we do?

Again, we may handle things differently from other stacks — each one moderates differently — but we do this stuff because we find it’s necessary to keep our site working smoothly, and we’re not really interested in just stopping keeping the site working smoothly. It does alarm and discomfort people at times, but that’s part of the learning curve of figuring out how a stack site works. We want to help people up that learning curve, and we can't just stop enforcing our rules for comfort's sake. People genuinely uncomfortable with our site’s requirements are welcome anywhere else; we even actively curate a list of other RPG communities that we direct people to when we can’t handle their content appropriately (e.g. they’re looking for a discussion).

If there’s some legitimate issue our rules are causing, please highlight the actual problem occurring with evidence. Right now, we’re just doing standard stuff that doesn’t really cause trouble. Wait a couple of days and the question will be open again if the asker cares to interact with us at all. We can’t action “how dare you close a question”.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks doppelgreener. Just to be clear, you seem to be saying I was not respectful enough in my first post, or am I misunderstanding? \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 26 '17 at 23:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I think your question was written disrespectfully. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 26 '17 at 23:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK I can see that! \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 26 '17 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for taking a second look at what you had written and for receiving my criticism of your post so amiably. I have to head to sleep, but there's other moderators and community members who will be in here and able to answer questions you might have. I hope we're able to work through your concerns with you effectively. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 26 '17 at 23:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't mean that the rules shouldn't be enforced, they must be of course. And I'm also aware that in the specific question we're talking about, it wasn't a moderator who put the question on hold but a group of users. And of course I know that you can't wave a wand and change the attitudes and habits of the people who use the site. I don't know what actions to suggest to address this... Some guidance added to the help documents? \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 27 '17 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Trying to better understand that "holy doctrine" paragraph you wrote kept me up a bit. I think I get it a bit better — do you mean something like, you saw a situation where action was taken unnecessarily, perhaps dogmatically or by letter of the law without regard to clear intent of that law or without benefit? I'll vouch that this looks like a legitimate situation to close a question. We've seen enough like this one we know what will happen — this is like catching someone before they fall over instead of waiting til they do then fixing up their face; it's a lot less messy this way. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 27 '17 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ That make me conscious that such a process might be opaque to a newcomer who doesn't recognise the kinds of problems we've seen and are acting to prevent, and so perhaps just sees a completely unnecessary closure. Maybe it would work to have kind of meta Q briefly guiding people around our practice of closing things proactively based on experience when we see problem-prone questions, why we do that, and how we work with the asker to revise them into something we're confident will work better for everyone. (Ok, now I'll sleep. Goodnight!) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 27 '17 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that's about what I meant. \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 27 '17 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes but that was clearly not a problem question, nor was it going to become one. It was asked and answered and if hadn't have been closed it wouldn't have had any more activity. I just can't conceive of it turning into a problem but even if it did or started to then it would have been better to close it afterwards. \$\endgroup\$ – Segfault Jun 27 '17 at 0:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ One stumbling block in the Stack network design is that our help center pages are the same for every site; only a part of our What Topics Can I Ask About Here? page is at all customizable to reflect the RPG.SE community's particulars. (And regarding "not a problem question," before closing it already had one answer deleted as Not An Answer because the question's scope left someone confused as to what constituted a full solution to the problem. Also, good answers rarely save poor questions; just means somebody successfully guessed what was needed.) \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 27 '17 at 1:25

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