Given past questions for holidays:

I wanted to ask the workplace community what are some topics of discussion that has taken place this past year that merits a year-end review?

  • New Users: there has been discussion as to how new users should be acquainted with the site, what kinds of questions are on-topic and what are off.
  • New question types: beyond interview questions, workplace ethics, there has been questions regarding mental health.

What are some topics you would like to bring up?

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    I also recall (and agree) hearing that we should be closing fewer questions, and try to edit them to a proper post instead of just plain VTC; several of them are workable but are quickly closed if it contains a few mistakes or something a bit unclear. I'll try to commit to this one this new year... I also feel that we should give some love to our tags: enhance, edit or prune some of them (approving synonyms is also quite forgotten) – DarkCygnus Jan 2 '18 at 15:19
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    Posting comments without bothering to read the entire question or answer is one of the nuisances that led to my partial retirement from this site. There has been a steady rise in the number of users with the attention span of a goldfish, who will read barely two sentences before commenting, "what about X?" Guess what, if you had bothered reading another 30 seconds before jumping to criticize, you would have found that X has already been addressed in the same answer. Then people read the comment and downvote the answer without bothering to read it themselves, like a herd of buffaloes. – Masked Man Jan 3 '18 at 9:33
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    @MaskedMan Care to add this as an answer? I believe it warrants its own discussion. – Bluebird Jan 3 '18 at 9:59

Irresponsible comments influencing voters on answers: You write an answer covering multiple aspects of the issue in reasonable detail. Minutes later, someone writes a comment, "Downvoting because you start by suggesting X, but it that would lead to issue Y."

Now, you were aware of the issue Y when you wrote the answer, and had elaborated how to deal with that a couple of sentences later, so what went wrong here? The problem is that either some people have the attention span of a goldfish and hence cannot read more than 2 sentences, or that they have an irresistible urge to criticize and hence cannot have the patience to read the complete answer before commenting.

Then other users read the comment, and downvote the answer because, (duh!) the answer must be definitely wrong because a comment says so, and anyway, who has the time to read the answer and use their own brains to figure out if the criticism is valid or not?

This is made even worse by StackExchange's strange system of "hiding" comments based on upvotes, so even if you post your own comment explaining why that criticism is unjustified, it would most likely be hidden, and again, who wants to bother reading all the comments, when it is just easier to downvote by reading the top voted comment?

Unfortunately, the comment flagging mechanism isn't much helpful here either. To begin with, while the criticism may be invalid, it isn't actually rude, offensive, "chatty", etc. so flagging it will most likely not lead to its deletion. Moreover, comment deletion can be done only by a moderator, which means usually the damage has already been done by the time they get to it.

So, what can we do about it?

On the whole, nothing much. At a personal level though, we could resist the urge to comment the moment we see something we don't agree with, and actually have the patience to read and understand the complete answer.

We could also avoid passing judgements (especially, the use of "downvoting/-1 because ...") in the comments, and instead phrase our criticism as a question: "How does your solution X deal with issue Y?" Criticism phrased this way is much more constructive. Moreover, this also allows the commenter to save face, as against, "ha ha, your solution missed issue Y, look I am so clever."

Also, if we do not have the patience to read the complete answer, we have the option to ... not comment at all (shocking fact, I know!).

As an aside, this nuisance was one of the main factors that led me to retire in restricted mode from this site.

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    I completely agree with you on this one MM, comments are known to derail good posts and even cause some of them to be lost or downvoted to oblivion. Unfortunately I think there is few things to do on this one, rather than encouraging those users to post their own answers instead of throwing mud into other's, plus what you suggested. – DarkCygnus Jan 8 '18 at 20:11

Our tags are kind of a mess. This answer suggests paying more attention to wikis and synonyms, which I agree with, but it feels to me like we don't have the right set of tags. Too often I can tell that the tags on a question aren't quite right but I can't find better ones. Sure I could just create some, but I'm always left wondering what our scheme even is and if I should be adding more clutter. We can talk about individual tags, which I've brought up sometimes, but it feels like the whole set could use a critical review before we start moving things around.

But that's hard, and where I always run out of steam.

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    IMHO, the tag system is broken. As long as folks are free to invent a new tag of their choosing, tags will surely proliferate without bound. We can call for a tedious tag cleanup process periodically, but that doesn't solve the real problem. Having a defined set of tags that cannot be altered (except perhaps annually by Admins after a vote?) is the only solution. Again, IMHO. – Joe Strazzere Jan 3 '18 at 17:43
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    @JoeStrazzere I agree that the ability of almost everybody to create tags adds noise. It feels like our base tag set is messy enough that we're inviting more noise; if we at least had a good set to start with, we could retag to fix the noise when we see it. Right now I see noise but don't have anything better to use. – Monica Cellio Jan 3 '18 at 17:46
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    If I were the king of the world, I'd delete all tags other than country tags. Then I would define a small set of tags (a dozen or fewer) and lock the tagging system for 1 year. After a year, I'd post a question here on Meta, gather up the responses, promote a few new tags and get rid of tags that weren't used well the prior year. Then I'd lock the tag set for another year. Lather, rinse, repeat. – Joe Strazzere Jan 3 '18 at 17:53

One of the things that gets me is Voting to close as too broad when there are already 2-3 perfectly good answers from people who did not find the question too broad. This is all part of TLDR and Twitter mentality that is so pervasive and destructive to our site and our society in general. Complex issues need complex responses, but that doesn't make them too broad to answer.

  • One of my amusing memories was getting a downvote because my answer was too long. IIRC you actually responded saying that the question was a complex question and deserved a long answer! – enderland Feb 19 '18 at 16:42
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    Hah yep - workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/7482/… - sometimes I worry myself how much of this SE I have committed to memory... – enderland Feb 19 '18 at 16:44

To condensate my comment into an answer:

  1. More edits and less VTC. Instead of plain VTC or following a Vote trend I believe we should try to edit the post to make it clearer and more on-topic, by asking the OP for clarification and using our common knowledge.

    Several posts that contain some minor mistake or have a really small degree of off-topicness are quickly closed, when most of them could actually be edited out to be a good question.

    I feel that we sometimes are quick to close when we see the minor indication of off-topicness, like when seeing a question that begins with "Should I" and VTC without even trying to remove the "should I" part. This is the part we could work on, and at least try to edit or obtain clarification before deciding to vote.

  2. Give some love to our tags. I feel some tag Wikis and excerpts are poor on description, and several others don't even have one. I also feel we have forgotten to accept and propose tag synonyms, which would help us have fewer, more significant tags.

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    Agreed but I feel I should point out that if you have to ask the OP for clarification, that's a signal that you should be voting to close. Questions that are unclear should be put on hold and later reopened if they're missing critical details. Answers based on incomplete information tend to be less than useful. – Lilienthal Jan 3 '18 at 9:15
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    If the question is not clear enough so that you have to wait for OP to issue clarifications, then you should vote to close and get it put on hold as early as possible. If the question remains open, there is a possibility of people answering it based on a misunderstanding, which becomes even worse if different people misunderstand it in different ways. Then it becomes impossible to edit the question without invalidating one or usually more answers. That opens up a big can of worms as answers which got invalidated now get downvoted heavily. – Masked Man Jan 3 '18 at 9:28
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    I agree with the "less VTC" thought. Perhaps the system could be altered to not permit any votes to close until after a cooling-off period of time (1 or 2 weeks perhaps)? That might slow the mad rush to close so many questions. As it is now, some folks just want to be part of the cool kids party who pass judgement and rapidly close questions. – Joe Strazzere Jan 3 '18 at 17:46
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    two weeks? that would mean that every question no matter how poorly constructed would get answers. But they would be deleted if the question was really bad, or invalidated if the question underwent a serious modification. – mhoran_psprep Jan 3 '18 at 21:02
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    If the question needs further input from the OP, it should be put on hold pending it, and the sooner the better. But if it's clear what needs to happen -- fixing language or formatting, incorporating stuff the OP said in comments, etc -- then I agree we should just do it. Help the OP out, leave a comment explaining what you did and why if he's new, and get on with adding a good question to the site. – Monica Cellio Jan 4 '18 at 18:47
  • @MonicaCellio I understand what you guys are saying. However, being realistic, posts that are being voted to close or are on hold and besides are unclear suffer from several downvotes. This removes any purpose on trying to edit it to a good post, as even though it were reopened it may be already in the "-5 zone" or near it where I have seen no post to graciously come back from... putting on hold as unclear is a death sentence for the post. The only alternative is for the OP to post it again after editing. – DarkCygnus Jan 4 '18 at 19:53
  • @DarkCygnus There have been questions that went from -5 to +75 even (with some HNQ magic, of course) after they were edited and reopened. That is more of a nitpick, and generally, your observation is valid. However, it is still the OP's primary responsibility to make a good post. We certainly want to help by editing when we can, but that is not a privilege. We don't want people to carry the impression that they can throw in any rubbish, and our army of unpaid volunteers will clean it up for them. – Masked Man Jan 25 '18 at 7:46

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