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I have enjoyed my first few months here at the Workplace, and I found the community to be very helpful, with insightful and mind opening discussions. However, in the last six months, something changed. I started feeling more and more hostility from this website, with more direct attacks, quickly closed questions and harsh remarks. And it's not a matter of rules, because most questions could be shut down using the "it depends" justification, that is just an excuse.

I don't know if it was a turnover in the community, and I don't have data to support my impression, but I realised that, while at the beginning I was always eager to visit and interact with The Workplace, over time I have started steering away from it, as I associated it with negativity. It's a shame, but right now, when I have a question related to work, I think twice before going to The Workplace, as in most cases I will be meeting not helpfulness and collaboration, but hostility and self-aggrandisement.

I am keeping my account for the moment, but I felt it was right to give some feedback on the current situation. Feel free to comment, or even better, Close/Delete/Deride this post. Thanks for reading.

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    I'm sorry you're feeling frustrated. Thank you for raising the issue on meta. If you see inappropriate comments please flag them; moderators can't clean up what we don't see and there are a lot of comments so we can't see them all. We need the community's help. Thank you. – Monica Cellio Oct 2 '18 at 14:40
  • Well, your last 4 questions were closed, so it's understandable to feel negativity (but then again your first 12 questions were also closed). But they admit that's a problem, and they're working on it. You might even be able to get those questions reopened by raising them on The Workplace Chat or Meta (or maybe not - who knows). I'm not sure if the less-than-welcoming comments have gotten worse lately, but SE has raised that as a concern not too long ago, although that has caused some controversy. – Dukeling Oct 4 '18 at 22:00
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    You've been here over 3 years, and about 1/3 of your questions have been closed. I'm not sure I see anything different in the past 6 months. I agree that The Workplace closes far too many questions. But I don't see any recent changes for the worse. It's hard to see any possible actions about feelings, but if you pointed out specifics, then perhaps something could be done. – Joe Strazzere Oct 6 '18 at 18:17
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    From what I can tell, there are many users here that hail from Stack Overflow. My experience with Stack Overflow is similar to the one you describe, and I don't hang out there because of it. Those people have their groupthink (or whatever you want to call it) and they like it, so it doesn't seem like it will change. – YetAnotherRandomUser Oct 14 '18 at 18:23
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I took a look at some of your questions that were closed.

Look at it this way: you got some thoughtful answers and comments in response to your questions before they were shutdown. THAT's what counts. There's a lot of great thought-provoking content on here and not all of it is correlated with upvotes.

For whatever reason some folks get hung up on the scores, rules, badges and gameification of stackexchange sites. They take them so seriously that they have no problem being dismissive to anyone who they perceive has violated "the faq". It's not that they're trying to mean, it's just that they feel a strict sense of obligation to the rules and they think its OK to downvote, close, mark-as-dupe or make smug remarks to a "violator". Sometimes that is perfectly warranted, other times, it can be a problem. In particular, I really dislike it when someone who is clearly facing a difficult work-life situation and writes a detailed question and gets wacked for trite reasons. Lately the "you can't ask 'what should I do?'" reason has been used more.

This has been going on for a long time on all stackexchange sites. In the last year or so, there's been a push to address the behavior which makes people feel excluded. There's now a new code of conduct. And to that, there's been a bit of a backlash. Some people really DON'T like that initiative and have either rage-quit the sites or, I think, have deliberately put more of an edge on their "editorial" behavior in defiance to it.

The solution, I think, is to detach yourself from expectations that people will respond in a certain way. Sure, try to frame your questions to get past the persnickety police, but don't worry to much if your question gets closed. It's not a big deal.

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People need to flag things if this is the case. And raise posts on meta when questions are closed unfairly.

Please, do these things!

As moderators, we have a limited view into what is happening on the main site as we cannot possibly read everything (sorry, we're humans...). If there are users that are consistently causing issues we will not know unless there are flags.

A good exercise if you feel too many questions are closed would be to take a list of say 10 or more and post them asking for explanations to why they are closed.

I should also note that Workplace has held steady around 50% question close rate. I don't have any fancy SEDE-fu to write a nice query but the moderator tools link (10k users only, I guess) consistently shows just over 50% of questions closed and has as long as I can remember. It's possible I'm misremembering the overall close rate but I do recall it staying somewhat consistent.

The more troublesome statistic there to me is only 15%ish of closed questions are ever edited.

  • First time I looked at the tool, too complicated for me. With the 15% I would think that is probably because a first time user who gets his question closed immediately just doesn't come back. Certainly for me stackexchange gives me answers instead of closing (I've had questions closed I think, but not before getting something to work with) – Kilisi Oct 2 '18 at 14:22
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    @Kilisi yeah, as I said on another question recently the 10k tools are... well they aren't remotely straightforward to use nor have they seen any love for perhaps the 5 years I remember them being available. I had been looking to find the historical close rate as that seems useful but I didn't see it anywhere in there, either. – enderland Oct 2 '18 at 14:37
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    "A good exercise if you feel too many questions are closed would be to take a list of say 10 or more and post them asking for explanations to why they are closed." - or even better, read the actual system-specified reasons for the close votes. Then edit the question and propose that it be re-opened. – Joe Strazzere Oct 6 '18 at 18:22
  • I'm a bit surprised to hear that a moderator can't read everything. On StackOverflow that would make sense; just now I looked and it had 50 new questions in the last five minutes. Here on Workplace, on the other hand, yesterday there were about 15 new questions asked on the site. That doesn't seem like an overwhelming load. If someone doesn't have time to read 15 questions, does that person really have time to be a moderator? – user1602 Oct 10 '18 at 15:18
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    @Kyralessa tell ya what, I'll ask my newborn to be quiet and let me read all the questions here for a few hours every day. I'm sure he'll be happy to help me out so I can satisfy your concerns! – enderland Oct 10 '18 at 18:49
  • @ElysianFields Actually, my numbers were high. There are 6 mods. Looking at the 100 most recent questions, the earliest was on 2 Oct. Counting that day and today, that's 100 questions in 9 days. So actually 11 new questions per day. Divided among 6 mods, that's less than 2 questions per mod. I gather keeping up with these questions is not among a mod's expected duties. But if flagging is the answer, I'll also point out that people's flags can be marked as helpful or unhelpful, which may make them reluctant to flag any but the most egregious cases. – user1602 Oct 10 '18 at 19:17
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    @Kyraleesa, It's not just about reading the 15 questions. Moderators also need to stay on top of comment wars and voting wars as they occur. That could mean revisiting the same question (and its answers) many times to stay on top of all of the interaction. – cdkMoose Oct 11 '18 at 13:22
  • With a 50% close rate, who in their right mind would try to edit a question to be reopened? I didn't know it was literally that bad, but I have been running into a lot of closed-as-duplicate questions, and most of them aren't. – YetAnotherRandomUser Oct 14 '18 at 18:25
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Sorry you're feeling that way Monoandale :(

I do find myself nodding along in agreement with you though - there's been a significant shift in the atmosphere over the last few months (and not for the better).

I'm not sure what the root cause is - there was definitely some pretty serious unpleasantness around the recent moderator elections and I know that has lead to at least two prominent members deciding to walk away from the site but that alone doesn't account for all that I'm seeing in my opinion.

The trigger-happiness with close votes has been an issue on here for some time and recently seems to have gotten worse - perhaps because some of the members who used to push to get questions fixed/reopened aren't here any more or are feeling a bit too jaded to put the effort in. Similarly with the handling of the negative/harsh comments.

I know that I'm sounding pretty doom-and-gloom about the situation, and yes I do think it's a real issue but I also know that there are still a lot of really good users here who believe in helping people.

If you ever find yourself wondering whether to post a question and are concerned about the potential reception come in to The Water Cooler and have a chat - there's usually a few of the regulars kicking about in there who will be happy to chew the fat over an issue, even if it's something that would be considered legitimately off-topic for the main site. During the day (UK time) we also often have one of our friendly neighbourhood mods (Snow) in there as well and despite his prediliction for listening to large amounts of Taylor Swift songs he's a good guy.

PS: It could be worse.. it's not like we're Stack Overflow or anything ;)

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    The trigger-happiness with close votes has been an issue - questions that are not of a quality to stand on their own with out edit should be put on hold until they can be fixed. Closing questions quickly gives us time to edit and save them before they take on a life of their "My situation sucks am I right?" answers that prevent editing the question to be constructive. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 2 '18 at 16:11
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings Which sounds all well and good - except for the most part that's not what happens. Too many people VTC and then just move on (I'm not aiming that at you BTW) and the closure reason messages read as exactly that closures. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but to pretend that what we're doing at the moment is working fine is ludicrous. – motosubatsu Oct 3 '18 at 8:34
  • but to pretend that what we're doing at the moment is working fine is ludicrous - Citation Required. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 3 '18 at 12:54
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings Because if it was we wouldn't need to be doing this? – motosubatsu Oct 3 '18 at 13:37
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    That looks like an XY problem. You think the problem is that the questions are being closed. The problem as I see it is that the bad questions aren't being improved enough to reopen. The site could continue to operate effectively without the challenge it is just an attempt to improve our question reopen rate. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 3 '18 at 15:36
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I suppose the low numbers of Qs being improved and being re-opened is my core issue as that makes being put on hold a de facto closure. I do think we "hold" too many Qs that are fine as is but I know better than to open that can of worms – motosubatsu Oct 3 '18 at 15:40
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings, how about this: The problem is a small group of people who are too addicted to the negative aspect (closing questions) and not at all interested in the positive aspect (editing questions to improve them; posting suggestions as comments; etc.). I'm not sure why this is, though I get the impression that voting to close a question is a much lower-effort activity than editing a question or making a comment. These exclusively negative actors are having a negative effect on the site as a whole. – user1602 Oct 10 '18 at 19:20
  • @Kyralessa - I do not see a problem there because the questions being closed are mostly poor quality. Those that are not poor quality tend to be fixed and reopened fairly quickly. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 10 '18 at 19:35
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings That is a subjective judgment, and I completely disagree with it. I would say that the questions being closed are mostly just fine, as evidenced by upvotes, good quality answers, etc. As for the few that are not just fine, nothing prevents the question-closer gang from contributing positively to improving them other than their complete unwillingness to do so. – user1602 Oct 10 '18 at 19:41
  • @Kyralessa - We are not going to agree on this topic it seems. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 10 '18 at 20:07
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I agree with you that I am not going to agree with you. :D – user1602 Oct 10 '18 at 20:41
  • For a specific example, I've seen enough closed questions w/ @IDrinkandIKnowThings's name on it, where I thought the question was fine, that I think that the problem is actually IDrinkandIKnowThings. I didn't go looking to see who was closing questions, I just happened to notice because it's a catchy name. I'm just some n00b on the site, so there's no point in picking a fight against more established users. Running the stats to see who is voting to close would be a better approach, & moderators could reach out and say something like "Offer constructive criticism & wait a week before closing". – YetAnotherRandomUser Oct 14 '18 at 18:30
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Unfortunately this problem isn't isolated to Workplace, it's an issue across the entire Stack Exchange network. The good news is, the Stack Exchange team know about the problem, and are actively trying to improve things.

In fact, they could really use your help! They are currently gathering data on comments, to try to do a better job of identifying unwelcoming comments, and they need volunteers to evaluate these comments. Here's the link you can use to take part. Please be aware, this link is to StackOverflow specific comments, but their efforts will expand to help other Stack Exchange sites over time.

It's also worth mentioning that we seem to have a really good moderation team on Workplace, and (in my opinion) they are helping to foster a good community environment, as evidenced by Elysian Fields♦ answer. It's good that you raised this question, because the issue isn't going to improve until the community acknowledges that there actually is a problem.

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Don't worry about it, I've been here for quite a while and haven't seen anything like that in terms of questions and answers.

Some people have had personal issue, perhaps justified, perhaps not. But in general everything is pretty much the same.

Joe hands out excellent advice to all and sundry and the rest of us try our best.

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    JoeFact#1 Deep down, we all wish we could be just a little bit more Joe – motosubatsu Oct 2 '18 at 12:09
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    @motosubatsu Na... you be you, I'll be me is my philosophy – Kilisi Oct 2 '18 at 12:11
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    JoeFact#1.5 ..except Kilisi of course. Who none of us would change for the world :) – motosubatsu Oct 2 '18 at 12:15
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    We don't need any more Joe's. @Kilisi is a valuable contributor with his own strong point of view (not to mention on the verge of 100k). We need more of those! – Joe Strazzere Oct 2 '18 at 12:20
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Yeah I can feel it too. I'm kinda afraid to ask another question on here.

In agreement with the other comments I too thank Joe and others who are taking their time out to answer questions, rather than close questions, downvote, delete-vote and criticize.

I truly hope the community managers are closely following the developments on this very useful site.

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