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From the dawn of this site we have struggled with problems conflict arising from different viewpoints and comment discussions that often digress into little more than ad hominem attacks. Most of these arise from well meaning people wanting to contribute butting heads about the way that should be done.

There are those that would say that calling a spade a spade is in line with the be nice policy but very few times would those people attempt to argue that saying that it was helpful. The be nice policy would still be in place but in addition we would add the expectation that the poster attempt to be helpful.

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    I think "be helpful and be nice while you are helping" is a good culture to encourage. – Joe Strazzere Aug 11 '16 at 1:40
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As long as we agree that "you are asking the wrong question" and the like are Helpful when phrased politely, I don't have any objection to ruling out off topic responses.

If the change would block "that's an unreasonable request because... Consider this instead" then I think it ties our hands and leaves us with only the option of voting to close questions of that sort.

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  • No I think consider this instead is exactly what would make this work – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 11 '16 at 14:44
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Being unhelpful is not nice.

Pointing out clearly (even if bluntly) that "You are asking the wrong question; what you actually need to know is _____" is helpful, but not very nice.

Withholding the information that the person really needs (in your opinion) because they didn't ask for it explicitly enough is not nice, nor is it helpful.

There are those that would say that calling a spade a spade is in line with the be nice policy but very few times would those people attempt to argue that saying that it was helpful.

I am one of those people. Actually, I go further: I say that "calling a spade a spade" is nice only because it is helpful.

However, I have the feeling I am missing the context from which you are really asking this question. I can't think of any occasion where ad hominem attacks would be either nice or helpful.

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  • It's not so much the unhelpful that is the problem we deal with those already with the not an answer flag. The problem is the I dont like your question so I am going to tell you what I think. They are not unhelpful nor are they helpful they are really the not a real answer version of an answer. They barely crawl over the bar of providing a solution (dont do that) but the overt intent is to provide a podium from which the answerer can lecture on their perception of the problem. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 13 '16 at 0:10
  • @Chad, I think we're abstracting too much—it is hard to make conclusions that apply so generally. Too give a specific example: Read this question and its answers. Those answers are very helpful, and are actually quite nice thereby—even the blunt ones. My statements above certainly apply there (I feel no need to modify them based on that link). Do you have another specific instance to cite? – Wildcard Aug 13 '16 at 0:15
  • I am confused. "'You are asking the wrong question; what you actually need to know is _____' is helpful, but not very nice." How is that? Wrtten that way, its completely without any positive or negative connotation. Its simply pointing out a fact. How else would you say it? Why do you think such a statement is rude or inpolite? – Polygnome Aug 13 '16 at 18:22
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    @Wildcard - I disagree that the most blunt answer there is helpful at all. It is basically 2 paragraphs of beating up the OP. None of it is explained why employers have a problem with the actions that are listed. Which while pretty obvious to you and I are apparently not so obvious to the OP. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 15 '16 at 15:07
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    Sometimes you need to get people's attention, and I can give someone a thorough dressing down which will make them WISH I had merely thrown a simple ad hominem their way. – Old_Lamplighter Aug 16 '16 at 16:44
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The problem arises in the definition of helpful. Some people need to be gives a swift kick in the bakside to move, others need hand holding while still others need a plan laid out for them and they'll take it and run.

I think this is far too subjective to even be considered.

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    I agree this is far too subjective. "Some people need to be gives a swift kick in the backside to move, others need hand holding while still others need a plan laid out for them and they'll take it and run." - who gets to decide what some people need? – Joe Strazzere Aug 11 '16 at 1:39
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    My answer may address this concern. A swift kick, if done politely and aiming them in the proper direction, may be entirely appropriate. The kick alone probably iisn't optimal. – keshlam Aug 11 '16 at 15:23
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I think this is a good idea. Personally I don't think it should be used to replace the "Be Nice" policy, but a new resource, outlining community expectations around what constitutes a "helpful" answer or comment would be very helpful in itself.

https://workplace.stackexchange.com/help/be-nice

Public service announcement: Keeping the Workplace Professional

A new write-up entitled "Be Helpful" would fit in nicely here right after "Be Nice": https://workplace.stackexchange.com/help/behavior

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  • I agree. I think the be helpful should be the most important part. If all a post does (be it comment or answer) is beat up on a post it is not helpful, even if it is done politely. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 11 '16 at 14:47

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