I flagged the comment:

"Most of the things are done." No they're not. Not even close. You are so far from being done that it is impossible to know just how incredibly far from being done you are. ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect )

left under a new user's first question because of the negative connotations that the Dunning–Kruger effect carries. I see its use in this particular comment as borderline snark, and certainly in no way a helpful comment to proved a welcoming environment to a new user.

@Ghedipunk when leaving your comment, the message "Devarsh Newar is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct" appeared right above where you were typing, perhaps you missed that? [uhoh]

Further comments 1, 2 also demonstrate pretty negative attitude:

Thank you, @uhoh, for calling my attention to the Code of Conduct once again. I've reviewed it, and I stand by my statement. The most helpful that anyone can be, in light of these 3 (unpunctuated) sentences, is to point out that they demonstrate a clear and undeniable inconsistency: One can not be ignorant of any of the fundamental equations of rocketry, and also have most "things" done for a trans-Martian trip except the formula[s]. This person is at the low end of the Dunning--Kruger Effect, and the most humane thing to do is to make sure they are educated.

Yes, I can throw a wall of text at them, but that isn't helpful or nice. Rather, the nicest thing that I can conceive of is to ask them to go find a resource that isn't strangers online who are seeking Fake Internet Points (tm), but people who care about them as themselves, and to realize that they don't have as firm a grasp on the topic as they may believe that they have.

We have a lot of positive and welcoming ways to help new users with their first questions, I don't see how this is one of them. The question can be answered, editied, helpful comments left, etc.

The follow-on comments just confirm that the intended purpose of the first comment seems to be to "do people a favor by showing them just how ignorant they are".

I don't think this is a valid justification, or a good way to greet new users.

However, iinstead of the Dunning–Kruger borderline-snark comment being deleted, my flag was declined.

I think the comment should be deleted because it may make the OP feel bad, and because it shows other users that we can say borderline-condescending things to new users when we like. This comment is basically "what's wrong with you is..."-ing the OP. They've come to the site asking questions.

In what way is leaving this comment intact benefitting the OP, or improving the quality of the site? Conversely, in what ways might it encourage more "what's wrong with you is..."ing?


1 Answer 1


The original comment and resulting discussion has been removed

I was the moderator handling the flag.

The offensiveness of mentioning the Dunning-Kruger effect varies greatly with usage and interpretation. You found this to mean a direct "this is what's wrong with you" attack, but that's not the popular usage of the effect. From my experience, it's a more gentle way of hinting that someone is missing quite a lot of the required detail, in almost an case used humorously. (and I see the follow-up comments as supporting this).

My initial decision was to leave the comment as it should be (barely) within what's acceptable, while not leaving it unchallenged by also letting your reply to it stand. I don't find that reply particularly nice either, as it is in turn is claiming in a brusque way that the initial reply should be considered malicious.

I see this as a reasonable course of action, although it's flawed. For instance, it could easily snowball further and derail from the question, which it did. Tone is difficult to judge on the internet, and we probably would not need this discussion if all of us were in the same room when this was said.

After a little internal discussion, we have decided that what would have been better in this case is to just quickly cut the comment chain short of any distractions, and this has now been done. Preserving comments doesn't really have all that much value as a default.

  • $\begingroup$ Moderation is really challenging and potentially thankless, so first of all I'd like to say thanks to the moderators of this site for building and maintaining such a great site with such a wonderful site experience! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ The beginning of Wikipedia's Dunning–Kruger effect says "In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability." Enter "cognitive ability" there and it redirects to Human intelligence. I don't see how it's a stretch to view this as unkind $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 2:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So by linking directly to the WIkipedia definition, the first comments sends the OP directly to an article suggesting that their cognative ability (inteligence) is so low that they are not able to understand how low it is. This shouldn't be a new user's first bit of feedback after asking their first question. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 8:58

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