Ah, dammit, it feels bad to ask such a "similar" question, but while I got some interesting answers, I feel like we could take this to a higher scale, the example I used was most likely flawed as people found excuses in the OP's behavior to file his question as "not OK". I'm really interested in this issue, and I don't think editing my previous question would cut it, so here we go.


Let's say someone asks a question on The Workplace (nothing too hard to imagine). I'm going to try to give some hypotheses about what kind of question I am talking about :

  1. The question is perfectly on-topic, is correctly worded and its perimeter is not too broad. To sum it up, the question respects the rules of The Workplace
  2. The user asking the question behaves correctly and provides the details needed to answer the question.
  3. The user might have unethical motives that are reflected in the question. Nothing illegal though, since it would go against 1.


You get it, it is only about the questionable ethicality of the question asked. Since the question is not against the rules, does it belong here ? Do you think unsavory/unethical questions can be asked on The Workplace ?

It is important to understand that I am NOT asking if you would answer such a question, or what you (personally) would do when seeing such a question. What I am asking is "Is it OK to ask such a question here ?"

  • I think that any ethical answers to an unethical question will only serve to promote the ethics of our community. Anyone who sees the question will hopefully see a consensus clearly stated about what is unethical about the question, and how a professional can strive to avoid the situation.
    – Lumberjack
    May 8, 2016 at 12:21

4 Answers 4


Do you think unsavory/unethical questions can be asked on The Workplace ?

It is important to understand that I am NOT asking if you would answer such a question, or what you (personally) would do when seeing such a question. What I am asking is "Is it OK to ask such a question here ?"

Questions can always be asked.

But I think you are really asking if such questions will be tolerated, rather than being downvoted/put on hold/deleted?

And I think the real answer is that the community will do what it chooses on a question by question basis.

History tells us that some questions will be tolerated and will even get a lot of attention (often as Hot Network Questions). It also tells us that some questions will be deemed offensive and draw downvotes/hold/deletion in response.

And personal ethics vary - by person, by locale, by culture, by corporation, by time. I've seen some things tolerated that I find reprehensible. And I've seen other things shut down that I thought were worthy of public discussion. If I were king of the world, it would be easy - I'd make my choice and everyone would be forced to go along with it. But that's not likely to happen, so everyone gets a say in what they think is "ethical" and what they think is not.

For many such questions I wonder about motive. Trolls can be entertaining, but I'd hate to see The Workplace devolve into a troll-filled forum - plenty of those exist elsewhere.

But that's just me. Clearly there are other opinions.

I like to think The Workplace has done a pretty good job of seeking balance on this sort of issue. Not perfect (things can always be improved), but good enough that a lot of people can get a lot of benefit. And that's not half bad.

  • How are Hot Topics selected? The algorithm may want to be adjusted, if trolling it is possible. Require an insignificant percentage of down votes, perhaps...
    – keshlam
    May 4, 2016 at 12:06
  • @JoeStrazzere That's exactly what I am asking about, yes, since there is no defined policy about that. May 4, 2016 at 12:21
  • I still find this answer VERY vague and unclear. It might be me, but what I'm sensing here is a slight form of elitism? Arrnt the tools to moderate a question simply meant to remove questions that dont go by the workplace rules? If 60% of the people LOVE a question and upvote it, and 10% loath it and downvote it AND flag. it'll get taken down. Is this what you mean by "the community will do what it chooses"? If so, it will always be the minority who decides what's correct and what's not. This answer doesn't sound logical to me. Nor does it remotely explain what questions could be acceptable.
    – Migz
    May 4, 2016 at 13:43
  • 4
    @keshlam hot questions selection heavily favors trolling - the more answers feed the troll, the higher is "hotness score", and it tends to stick due to snowball effect when careless random visitors from sidebar (not site regulars) upvote "entertaining" questions and answers. This is by design, hot questions have nothing to do with promoting quality content, see eg What is the Goal of “Hot Network Questions”?
    – gnat
    May 4, 2016 at 13:50
  • 1
    @Migz see above ^^^ - in hot questions, 90-99% people who "love" (entertain) the question are random passers by attracted from sidebar, not site regulars. It's indeed opposite to elitism because feedback from site community, from folks who provide and care about content is totally overwhelmed by entertained audience from outside. You can find more concrete examples of how attention of hot list audience promotes inappropriate questions and makes it harder to moderate content in Recent Trouble With Popularity at P.SE meta
    – gnat
    May 4, 2016 at 13:55
  • 1
    @Migz - I don't think it has anything to do with elitism, but that's only my opinion. I don't make the rules here. We can talk all we want about what questions could be acceptable. But practically speaking, the community makes that decision. The site is lightly moderated by design, and the moderators do what they can. But the votes and flags are community driven, according to the community's whims at the time. This Meta forum and Chat exist to plead the case for any individual question. But in large part, if the community likes a question (even if you & I don't), the question remains in place. May 4, 2016 at 16:56
  • And there are always the comments and moderators. I have seen questions here, which initially brought up a lot of sentiments, that through comments and moderation turned into great resources.
    – user8036
    May 4, 2016 at 19:43
  • +1. I second your last paragraph: the community here typically does a good job and potentially volatile questions like this are typically handled way better than I've come to expect from online communities. Giving such questions the benefit of the doubt can sometimes keep a troll post on the site longer but has often resulted in good additions to the site, as @JanDoggen points out.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    May 4, 2016 at 20:18

Realistically, such questions are going to draw more ire than answers, and will be a disaster for the admins to police.

And they don't really meet the SE goal of being useful additions to a crowd sourced list of Good Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Finally, on a purely practical basis, I think they will always be viewed out of bounds. No matter what we decide here, that just ain't what the SE community's here for, and more people will be annoyed enough to shut them down than will want to keep them.

Take it to another site.

  • Good, practical answer. May 4, 2016 at 11:47
  • The two questions I think the OP is referring to were shut down quickly. The site's community policing works. I agree with you. May 4, 2016 at 12:54
  • 2
    Remember that everyone with 3,000 reputation can vote to close. It doesn't take a moderator to do this. People with more than 20,000 reputation can vote to delete a lot of content (you've got 24k or so rep yourself). It's very helpful for us moderators for community folks to actively police/close questions like this. We are merely mortal and cannot see the site 24/7.. :)
    – enderland
    May 4, 2016 at 14:18
  • @enderland and I've seen offensive and/or unethical questions closed in under five minutes. We are very effective in policing ourselves Dec 12, 2016 at 17:01

Businesses and therefore workplaces don't commonly focus around ethics. Legalities, yes, ethics, not so much. On top of that, each individual might have a different concept of what is ethical. So how would you judge?

Therefore let them ask whatever they want along those lines, they'll either get some help or they won't, but I see no need to stop them asking.


Im hesitant to paint with a broad brush that these "aren't welcome here" because there is always a shifting line of whats still acceptable and whats currently not.

In general though, I agree entirely with Keshlam's sentiment that questions blatantly about unethical conduct are probably going to draw more ire then good and as such should be removed from the site.

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