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Yes, this is an actual thing that I'm having to post.

Reading a number of the recent opinion wars on meta, I really feel like it should be necessary to complete the following mental checklist before participating in a debate over how the topic matter can be better applied, unfair treatment of new users, or ego on the part of high rep users/moderators.

  1. Have I recently refreshed myself on the first paragraph of about?
  2. Do I agree with this?
  3. Have I clicked on the professionalism link on the about page, and read that too?
  4. Do I have feedback on how this definition can be improved, or how it can be better applied? (note that this allows for disagreement with the proposals of others)

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then there isn't much that can be constructively added to discussions about how this site can operate more effectively within the scope of the topic matter. Bluntly, that person isn't even participating in the same discussion. (and it's getting tiresome)

I challenge that those points of view are fundamentally off-topic for most meta discussions about how this site can be improved.

  • If people want to make a question about why the stated goals of this site are misguided, that's perfectly acceptable. Some of us might disagree, but at least everything is kept topical within the question.
  • If people agree with the subject matter of the site but disagree with the proposed changes and/or attitudes of others, that's what everyone expects and is business as usual.
  • In all other contexts, this line of conversation is line noise. It's debating something that isn't up for debate.

Going forward, I'd like to ask that the moderators keep an eye out for this creeping into the threads about how to improve the site again and do what comes natural. Folks have had their opportunity to get it out of their system. It's just another form of the ongoing problem: people ignoring what the site is about and expecting everyone else to play ball with them. (albeit dressed in a wall of text)

  • Do you have specific examples? – Andrew Aug 23 '13 at 2:06
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    While I agree in principle, I think discussion is always on-topic on meta.SEwhatever. Certain discussions are getting to be pretty much duplicated. – Ward Aug 23 '13 at 2:22
  • @Ward There's such a thing as on-topic within the scope of a meta question though, or so I've been led to believe. If a question's focus is making SF better within the scope of the subject matter, PoVs that completely throw the subject matter out the window aren't topical. – Andrew B Aug 23 '13 at 3:26
  • @Andrew It came up a few times here and here. Comment threads have been trimmed down since, so YMMV. – Andrew B Aug 23 '13 at 3:37
  • ATDT^H^HCarrier Lost. – Tom O'Connor Aug 23 '13 at 8:20
  • ......+++ATH0 – voretaq7 Aug 23 '13 at 17:20
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Mod Hat Off

I agree with your line noise check criteria.

Questions about the scope of the site, INCLUDING ANY QUESTION ABOUT HURT PWECIOUS FEEWINGS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT BOTHERED TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE SITE'S SCOPE AND STATED PURPOSE are a waste of time and energy.

Server Fault's culture is very much the Usenet culture before the Eternal September - People are expected to at least have read the /about page before throwing questions on the wall. If they fail to do so swift correction is applied.
I see no issue with this so long as we're really sticking to our scope and standards and not constantly creeping the line up just to be mean.

Unless something constructive is being brought to the table -- Reconsidering the site's definition of "professional capacity", broadly including or excluding specific question categories, etc. I see no value in rehashing the same discussions.


Mod Hat On

Any discussion about the site - even the ones we've had 100000 times before - is "On Topic" for Meta by default.

My personal stance as a mod is that Meta moderation is to be undertaken with a lighter hand than even main site moderation (and I'm pretty charitable there too) -- This is the place for the minority to air their concerns. The community may not agree with the concerns raised, but it is important for the health of the site and the community that we hear them. (Also occasionally the rare valid point is brought up in those discussions -- that's how the Professionalism bit became a link in /about and /help)

That said, close voting and flagging work the same on Meta as they do anywhere else.
If something has really been covered before, it should be marked as a duplicate unless it is raising new issues/concerns not previously addressed.

Also if you guys see a discussion descending into chaos the tools to deal with that (in order of preferred application), are:

  • Stating your disagreement, and ending the discussion from your end.
  • Voting to close the discussion (preferably as a duplicate of something that covers the same ground, but as plain off-topic if nothing else fits).
  • Flagging real trainwrecks for the mods to deal with, which may include:
    • Closure
    • Comment Purges
    • Locks
    • Deletion
    • Any combination of the above

And of course Downvotes on Meta are also the standard way of saying "I think you're wrong" / "I don't agree with this".

  • Having gotten the chance to know both, Serverfault's culture is quite definitely not the Usenet culture. The Usenet had no instruments for closing or voting, so in most groups the usual method of expressing doubt about a question's topicality or quality was crafting a post to ridicule the original poster as bluntly as possible. Which often resulted in endless flame wars. – the-wabbit Aug 23 '13 at 21:50
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    @syneticon-dj Close votes are our equivalent of every member of the group posting "OMFG DID YOU READ THE FAQ YOU DAMN N00B". We're slightly more civilized -- but only slightly. – voretaq7 Aug 23 '13 at 22:59
  • Yeah, you've got a point. I was mostly trying to address my eye-twitching whenever someone derails a discussion with sentiments along the lines of the topic matter is pointless, let me inject my alternate reality fanfic of what SF is about into this otherwise useful debate. In the future I'll just link to the nearest dupe, or this topic failing that. – Andrew B Aug 27 '13 at 23:28
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I will hazard that the overarching opinion I have seen from most participants in meta and particularly those who are casting all the close votes on SF (including myself) is that the site is neither broken nor doomed, and that the items in the about page and topicality question you linked appear to have been either different or very laxly enforced in the past, but are now being enforced more aggressively and largely correctly.

I propose that questions related to whether SF as a community will continue to exist or grow or both based upon the perceived temperament of people casting votes should be themselves closed as a duplicate of any of the myriad things they duplicate.

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