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Today someone asked a question that, at its heart, is an interpersonal behavior/advice question. Seeing this while browsing the questions list, I stopped by and made the comment (to the best of my recollection since it was almost immediately deleted):

This might be better asked on https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/

OP responded with a comment shortly thereafter saying they asked here because they felt the fact that it was a role-playing game was critically important to resolving the issue.

I was in the process of responding to that in an attempt to explain that the underlying issue was not one of understanding role-playing or RPG-related rules/solutions, but rather of respecting boundaries and privacy (which is a topic-agnostic behavioral issue), when my comment (but not OP's response) was deleted by a moderator, who basically told me not to recommend the interpersonal site for interpersonal questions.

I feel like this approach was an inappropriately hostile one and I'm still a little taken aback at the accusation from the moderator that I'm trying to undermine one or both of these sites; on any other Stack Exchange site, comments recommending more appropriate sites for certain questions are encouraged, not censored. I don't spend a ton of time here comparatively; is this kind of response the norm on RPG.SE?

The moderator said that leaving a comment that IPS.SE "also handles IPS questions" is fine, but the reality is the other way 'round: IPS.SE doesn't "also" handle it, IPS handles these questions and (apparently) RPG.SE also handles them when related to RPGs.

Leaving aside whether it is actually a better site for the question or not, how am I supposed to recommend a different site when I think it is a better fit for the question than RPG.SE?

Here is the full (now deleted) interaction (minus my first comment, which was deleted much earlier by the moderator):

comment exchange

I did not receive any kind of comment response or moderator message from the moderator; the comment thread was just silently deleted, rather than moved to chat.

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Let me TL;DR this for the casual reader.

  1. RPG.SE handles all kinds of interpersonal questions that are RPG related (as we handle a variety of topics which overlap with other areas, some of which have SEs for them and some of which don't, as long as they're in the RPG domain).

  2. Comments saying anything interpersonal should/should better be put on IPS.SE (just like anyone trying to drive any other question off the site - dice? You should go to statistics.SE. Plots? Go to worldbuilding.SE) will be deleted as erroneous and against our site policy.

There's no "fight," every time there's a new SE you have enthusiastic people wanting to drive traffic over to it. But anything about RPGs (with the obvious examples you can see with the tag here on meta) is on topic for RPG.SE and we believe we can usually provide a better answer given the context of RPGs, as an interpersonal problem with your GM, your boss at work, your child, etc. probably get a more nuanced answer on the relevant SE (RPG, Workplace, Parenting) than the more general IPS site.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds good, except the question that prompted this isn't about RPGs. So by that reckoning the comment shouldn't have been deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jun 8 '18 at 0:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH How to manage the social aspects within and around playing RPGs is explicitly on topic at RPG.se. That includes where to play and how to interact with non-group people near the game. I hear that you don’t believe the RPG element is relevant, but that’s a decision one user doesn’t get to make solo. General SE policy is that askers can decide where their question gets posted when there are multiple places where it’s on-topic. We respect that policy here. Established site scope and the question’s content says it’s on topic here, and the asker decided to post here, so that’s how it is. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 8 '18 at 1:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, we get that you believe that @TylerH, but we disagree. Just as you would handle that differently at work, with your kid, or just hanging with friends, there's some additional RPG context in this case. You can believe that or you can not, but it's not your call. Someone is welcome to ask such questions on IPS and if they get a helpful answer fine. If they ask them here, don't harass them. Period. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jun 8 '18 at 1:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which is not to say that your comment harassed anyone. But between the tone here and the insistence about it being off-topic, we are concerned enough to feel like that line needs to be clearly drawn just to be sure we’re all on the same page. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 8 '18 at 2:01
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It comes down to that we're having some problems with IPS.SE users undermining the domain expertise of RPG.SE, and dissuading users from asking interpersonal questions here. I removed your initial comments because they looked like an extension of the same pattern. I also then cleaned up that comment thread because it's not the kind of thing I'm interested in a new user being burdened by — they're just trying to seek a solution for a problem and an argument has broken out in their comments section for some reason.

RPG Stack Exchange users are, as a community body, experts at understanding and resolving interpersonal problems surrounding the RPG sphere. RPG interpersonal situations are explicitly on topic within our domain. Someone on the site has been there, experienced that situation, and found a way to resolve it.

Interpersonal Stack Exchange is similarly eminently capable of dealing with interpersonal situations, with some users having domain expertise in RPGs. That means we're in a situation where the same question may be on topic on two sites. That's fine, and normal business.

The problem comes about by the fact that over the past few months, most if not all RPG.SE interpersonal questions have received comments like this one:

You may be able to find more specific advice on handling this player at: The Interpersonal Exchange. Just be sure to phrase your question more as "how do I tell this player ____?" instead of just "what do I do?". The first is more on-topic for the exchange.

Telling a user that another site will give better or “more specific” advice about an RPG interpersonal problem than, y'know, our site that explicitly deals with the RPG interpersonal domain is crossing a line for me. It undermines our users' expertise and (deliberately or not) amounts to eroding our site scope. We're quite capable of handling those questions, and want to continue receiving and handling them. (It's not just me either: others on the mod team on this site have been removing these comments as well.)

Some of these comments have even wrongly asserted that interpersonal questions are off-topic on RPG Stack Exchange, and sometimes users have even voted to close those questions as off topic. That makes this a significant problem for us that requires diamond moderator intervention. You didn't do that, but it's an ongoing part of the problem we're experiencing, and comments advising that another site is a “better” option aren't helping.

So, your comment saying Interpersonal.SE might be a better place for an RPG interpersonal question is concerning to me, and an extension of the same pattern. (Do you get people on IPS.SE trying to direct all the workplace questions to Workplace, or all the RPG questions to RPG.SE? I'm really hoping not, because it sucks.)

I respect IPS.SE's scope and the expertise it has available, and I'm interested in it succeeding—but I'm also interested in that respect being mutual and the two sites not coming at a cost to each other. Comments like “your question is better on another site” corrode the relationship between the two sites and what could be a healthy relationship instead becomes one where one site is succeeding at a cost to another. That turns potential healthy cooperation into a competition.


Instead I recommend a template like this:

Just FYI, [interpersonal.se] also accepts interpersonal questions, this may also be on topic there.

That's not positioning one site as better or more suitable than another. It's just saying the other site is there as an option. Great! Awesome. Do that if you'd like.

But saying IPS.SE is a “better” place for it is when it becomes not so OK.

When someone's asking about an interpersonal situation, and it's occurring in the vicinity of an RPG, it's on topic here and we're well equipped to answer it. If it's an interpersonal situation not occurring in the vicinity of an RPG, we'll send it over to IPS.SE to take care of.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Might also be worth mentioning that the comments sometimes even incorrectly claim these are off topic here. If I recall correctly, some of the earliest comments in this trend were very forceful about them being off topic, and were accompanied by close votes. That has made the trend less a mere nuisance and more a capital-P Problem demanding mod intervention, at least in my judgement. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, in other words, if the question is on-topic for this SE, comments should never be suggesting another stack as "better" than RPG.SE, correct? If that is your main point I might suggest leading with (and maybe expanding on) that since it more directly addresses the core question OP has (despite your answer being very very good at explaining the issues around it). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 7 '18 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose It’s specifically a problem with recent suggestions about IPS.se. Taking it as a general rule would be overkill and probably have unintended consequences (and then we’d have to fix those). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Fair enough, I just wanted to say that when I read through the answer I was left with the impression it was almost but not quite explicitly answering the question OP actually asked and that OP may feel that way as well. I could be alone in this (and that is fine). I thought the answer was great overall though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 7 '18 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I've updated the 2 paragraphs following the first quote to incorporate your suggestion. How does that look? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 7 '18 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Looks good! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Sometimes the explicit question asked on meta is missing what the problem is; it's okay for meta answers to focus on the problem, rather than what the asker at first thinks is the problem. That often works on meta because the community has first-hand experience with the situation — unlike on Main with questions about people and situations we don't know, here the question isn't our sole window into what they're talking about. (You'll see apparent question-answer mismatches like this fairly often on meta, especially when the underlying issue is really a support issue.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes, and I've been told RPG.SE can't handle group dynamics questions on IPS by other people when recommending cross posting of RPG-specific content, which is also insulting but not something we have control over. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jun 7 '18 at 23:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer SE frowns on cross-posting so probably good to avoid that precise suggestion, but yes, if they think they’re off-topic here that’s unfortunate. Fortunately it’s fine if a Q stays on the SE they chose to post on, when it could fit at more than one, so they’re not doing a lot of damage with that misunderstanding. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to ask, would this answer and the initial response that prompted this meta question have been different if the main site question had been on hold or closed? \$\endgroup\$ – Loki Laufeyson Jun 9 '18 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LokiLaufeyson If we'd already decided it was off topic on our site, pointing the user elsewhere as a better location is fine & also business as usual. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 9 '18 at 21:08
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I note several broad issues with doppelgreener's response above that I will try to address in order (as an answer due it to being far too long for a comment). My apologies if I have any unfinished thoughts or repeat myself at any point, this response took on several phases as I wrote it and re-ordered sections.

  1. Making several problematic assumptions;

    • that I am "an IPS.SE user" (I'm not sure what prompted this kind of isolated site membership classification, but if I had to be compared between my activity on this site and that site, it would be quite clear from even a cursory glance that I contribute more [and in more varied ways] to this site than IPS. More on why this issue is problematic in general on point 2). I find it problematic that a moderator is holding so hard and fast to the notion that I am "from" IPS.SE without bothering to do the most basic research into that opinion. "Research first" is supposed to be the hallmark of the Stack Exchange network, after all...
    • that I am attempting to undermine the site or have some ulterior motive. I have no ulterior motive; my only desire is for OP to ask the question on the most appropriate site so that they get the best quality answers.
    • that OP is a new user and prone to confusion (they've been around for over four years and have multiple linked accounts on different sites where they have participated, so they have a decent notion of how the network operates). Even without making this assumption, their first comment in response to mine clearly showed an awareness of the situation and a thoughtful reason for posting it here. So... the argument that the comment was deleted because OP might be confused about the network doesn't hold any water, in my opinion.
    • that incorrect closure of questions is a serious problem that requires moderator intervention. This is not true; the community has the ability and responsibility to re-open improperly-closed questions. Moderators should be exception-handlers. If you see a spate of users coming from another site telling people that on-topic questions are off-topic, the moderator's role is in stopping those people from coming, but it is the community's purview to decide what should or should not be on-topic here. Your role there is just another community member and you should not abuse your diamond to unilaterally declare a topic on-topic if the community deems it off-topic.

      If enough of these people were coming from another site to actually close a question (it doesn't matter how many come here and flag; 1 flag or 1,000 flags both affect a question the same way -> into the CV Queue it goes, in the order of flag age), you could revert that by reopening the question, but at the point where you have enough people with 3,000+ reputation on a site that five of them agreed the question is off-topic, perhaps you are mistaken and the community already has spoken. It's hard to make a serious argument otherwise when there's no meta or FAQ page that provides a counterargument.

  2. Separating people into arbitrary groups based on (assumed) site membership for the purpose of pitting one against the other; maybe it's a benefit I have of being active on multiple sites (and higher-traffic sites), but people here should be considered SE Community members first. It's destructive in my opinion to consider someone a member of "a site" in the context of pitting users from one site against users from another. By posting here, I am—if anything—a member of this site, not of IPS.SE. I don't think it's healthy for a moderator to consider people as being part of the "other" here; especially when they should have the system knowledge and familiarity required to check a user's public activity on a different site. Or they could just ask an IPS moderator in the Teachers Lounge.

  3. Mis-characterizing what I said. Multiple times the moderator has now paraphrased what I said. Unfortunately I cannot access the exact words of the deleted comment on my own, but I know it was not “your question is better on another site” which is what has been claimed multiple times now. I think it's harmful for a moderator, of all people, to mischaracterize what was said repeatedly. If a moderator is going to bother repeating a deleted comment, they should use the exact quote (or better yet, provide a screenshot) rather than paraphrasing.

    What I said was something very close to "I feel like this might be better asked on IPS". This carries totally different connotations than stating matter-of-factly that it doesn't belong here or that it definitely is better to be asked on a different site. It was my gut feeling that a different site (which focuses on the kind of question OP was asking) might be a better fit than this one, where there's only a tangential relationship between the topicality of the question and the topicality of the site, which leads me to...

  4. (and I didn't want to go here on this question because its mixing two different topics) ...Making the erroneous argument that this is related in some key way to role-playing games. OP is not asking about the game, its rules, its plot lines, its players, or player dynamics/interaction. OP is asking about someone walking by. You can replace the scenario here with buddies playing Mario Kart 64, or work colleagues working on a job-related project, or a sports team gathering to watch a sporting event on TV, and the same problem will occur: the brother got upset that the group didn't want him to sit there and watch them do whatever it is they were doing, and/or felt it was an unreasonable request.

    When someone's asking about an interpersonal situation, and it's occurring in the vicinity of an RPG, it's on topic here and we're well equipped to answer it.

    I find it hard to believe this is the standard by which you consider RPG.SE more appropriate. By this standard it would be on-topic here if two customers are having a heated argument in a coffee shop and someone asks how to get these people to stop arguing when you are DMing a game in said coffee shop. It has nothing to do with the game! Even if you tell them you are DMing an RPG and want them to stop... it is still about them abiding by your wishes and respecting your boundaries.

    That the group is role playing is irrelevant. The issue is that the brother is not respecting the group's wishes for privacy, or in other words, that he is having trouble respecting the boundaries the group has set. This is, at its heart, an interpersonal issue of respect, and has nothing to do with what the group is doing (given the broad assumption that it is not anything illegal or illicit that would otherwise draw a reasonable person's attention).

    If OP were asking about how to make the players comfortable with roleplaying while a non-participant is watching them or able to see/hear them, it would perhaps be a different story, because that's about player dynamics. But some random external stimulus not under your immediate control can't seriously be argued to be "domain knowledge" of RPGers moreso than of interpersonal behavior folks.

Now, I don't have a dog in this alleged fight between RPG.SE and IPS.SE or certain members who are leaving comments here and there, and I don't mind being informed that RPG.SE has explicitly decided to answer interpersonal questions wherever an RPG is involved to the smallest degree. That's fine! I'm all for the community deciding to take those questions on!

On that note, I look forward to the site updating its Help Center's On-Topic page to include "interpersonal questions where an RPG is involved" so that moderators and community members have something concrete to back this position up, because it doesn't mention that subject currently, nor could I find any meta discussion here on the subject, let alone one where the community at large agreed to accept them.

What I do care about is a moderator jumping in and assuming ill intent from the get-go, and worse, persisting with that assumption after being told there is no ill intent or ulterior motive. That shouldn't happen to anyone on any Stack Exchange site. If moderators or the community notice a trend in people commenting/voting questions as off-topic that go against the community's wishes/consensus, then you need to make a meta post asking the site community about it or to serve as a and then link to it in future moderator comments.

Mentioning the prior issue or linking to an existing meta discussion, plus assuming good faith rather than ill intent, would have prevented this situation from flaring up beyond the first moderator comment; I could have read the explanation or meta post and understood where the hard line response was coming from. Instead I was left wondering why a moderator was deleting a comment that on any other site would have been encouraged, and accusing me of an ulterior motive without any kind of evidence or forewarning.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your comment was “I feel like this may be better asked on interpersonal.stackexchange.com” (I feel like this may be better asked on https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aside, if you generally feel a FAQ should exist for something, the way to make that happen is to ask a neutral meta question and tag it [faq-proposal]. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 7 '18 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ The list of assumptions that this answer starts off with appears to be ill-founded; most or all of them take general statements about the existence of some users with given characteristics as a direct statement that you, specifically, are one of them. I don't think the mods believe you to be a member of each such group, and I definitely don't think doppelgreener's answer rests on such a belief. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jun 8 '18 at 6:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE Doppelgreener's comments and post at several points adopted the tone that only makes sense if I am one of those users ("Do you get people on IPS.SE", etc.). I don't think the other mods ever made the same association and I hope doppelgreener doesn't anymore, either, now that I've made this post. That aside, the assumptions and perspectives are harmful regardless of whether they are accurate, which is half of why I mentioned them. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jun 8 '18 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I said your comment was part of a pattern we've been observing and removed for matching that pattern. I don't need to make any assumptions or groupings about you or your intentions in order to go “oh, it's another comment saying IPS.SE is a better fit, I'll remove it.” That's not about you, that's about the words you wrote. You're leaping to a lot of conclusions about what I assumed and what I'm doing and about how terrible a person and/or moderator I am based on those conclusions—would you mind extending some of that assuming good faith back my way too? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 8 '18 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I never said you were a terrible person or moderator, only that these actions from a moderator were problematic. You implied I was "an IPS member" multiple times, the majority of which came in the context of you pitting IPS users 'against' RPG.SE. I'm focusing on the problems, not the people. If it seems like I am not assuming good faith for you, it is probably because 1) you are the one who did not assume good faith to begin with, putting me on the defensive, and 2) moderators should be held to a higher standard. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jun 8 '18 at 18:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Speaking to some of the bits of this answer: thanks for pointing out interpersonal stuff isn't covered in our on-topic help, it's been added. We don't have a meta categorically saying social issues are on topic, no, we haven't really needed one (like we haven't needed one saying rules questions are on topic) but I wasn't aware that this was an issue. There's been something to that end being discussed recently between IPS.SE and RPG.SE moderators we might need to push ahead on then to clarify things. You're also right I need to avoid language that sounds like pitting sides in a fight. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 8 '18 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I think it's clearly needed if there's been an ongoing issue from multiple unrelated people making the suggestion of other sites; that being said, I maintain that the common opinion is that the question referenced in the OP is an interpersonal one that is only tangentially related to role playing in a role playing game, and that the only reason a few people here have been so adamant that the opposite is the case is that they spend all their time here in the RPG site and quite possibly feel threatened that the site may languish of people don't jump to RPG.SE for such questions. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jun 8 '18 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Do you have any evidence to support the assertion you're making about what the common opinion is, beyond this one instance of your comments being disagreed with? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 8 '18 at 22:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Yeah the words used by the OP in the question that prompted this discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jun 9 '18 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH It demonstrably not the common opinion that that question is off topic — there are zero close votes or topic flags on it. Even if it was the common opinion, such questions have been on-topic here for longer than IPS has existed. Since they cause no problems here, and by itself the existence of other suitable SEs never makes a Q off topic on a site, even if common opinion lead it to be closed, it would be reopened by a moderator with a reminder that questions about interpersonal issues within the context of roleplaying games are not and haven't ever been off topic. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '18 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH I am referring to your explicit statement on what the common opinion of that question's topicality is: “I maintain that the common opinion is that the question referenced in the OP is…”. (I don't see a mention of the subject in general.) As the data shows, that statement is not correct. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '18 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH No need to throw insults. Could you expand on how the common people of the world, most of whom have presumably not seen the question, can have an opinion on it? Or do you mean that you are speaking for those people and what their opinion would be? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '18 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tyler When a social self-reinforcing feedback loop is called an “echo chamber” it is used exclusively to denounce it as bad, broken, or sometimes even evil — either way, it is exclusively an insult in 2018 online discourse. Yet SE’s entire design is to promote useful, healthy, self-reinforcing community behaviour. Of course your use there insults the community. So, please avoid that because we have rules about insults. Back to opinion: are you saying your voice represents more than one person and should be accorded weight greater than one person in this meta discussion of topic policy? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 13 '18 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH The fact that RPG.se is designed to do what you're describing as an “echo chamber” is part of the reason why your argument is being flatly rejected: the community consensus (what you're calling “echo chamber”, but the only community relevant to this matter) is demonstrably in disagreement with your assessment of that question's topicality. If you can make an argument grounded in SE policy & principles for why the question should be off topic, you may want to post a meta proposal to change that consensus, describing the line past which IP questions should be off topic here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 13 '18 at 16:49

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