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If you haven't already seen the new Stack Overflow blog post, please take the time to do so:

Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change.

You may have noticed this tidbit hidden in a footnote:

This post focuses on Stack Overflow, but most of it applies to the broader Stack Exchange network as well.

I would say it absolutely applies here. Let's start with the basics:

[Space Exploration Stack Exchange] is intended to be an inclusive place where every[one with a space question] can participate.

So what do we need to do:

Let’s shift from “don’t be an asshole” to “be welcoming.”

When you respond to a post or a comment, try to maintain a positive attitude. I'm not pointing fingers. I think most of us have had a day where we hopped on SE without enough coffee, if you know what I mean. If you can't respond kindly, don't respond. If the other user is being rude and you can't respond kindly, flag their post. If the other user is violating the rules and you can't respond kindly, flag their post. There is no reason to stop being nice.

If you can keep a positive attitude, go a step further and make sure the user is fully welcome in the community. Don't make assumptions based on reputation or level of participation in the site. Make sure the user knows that we're glad to have more contributions. Make sure the user knows what our standards are and why. Take a moment and explain briefly what they need to improve, what our rationale is, and point them to our Help Center for further instruction.

Let’s do something about comments.

No more condescension or sarcasm. I will be deleting these on sight. If I've missed it, don't assume I condone it. Flag it and I'll take a look.

Let’s make it easier for new users to succeed.

SE plans on trying out a beginner page, but we can start doing this without the technical framework. If they are new to SE or to Space Exploration and it's not clear what their question is, gently explain to them that our site is meant for clear Q&A. Help guide them to include a clear question in their post. Even consider editing their post for them, as sometimes new users have trouble figuring out how the edit mechanic works. Do this before downvoting--they are new, and we can't expect perfection, especially when we have the tools to help them.

If they haven't demonstrated prior work, try to walk them through what they might have done and can do.

Let’s stop judging users for not knowing things. (We’re a Q&A site!)

Don't downvote duplicates. They are not an affront to the site. Make sure you explain to new or confused users why you see it as a duplicate. Often users don't see the answer to their question in the duplicate and need some help. Sometimes their answer isn't actually in the other Q&A, and they need help to rewrite their post to clarify their actual question.

Don't bully people answering duplicates. Now, if they vote to close and post an answer, you can gently provide them guidance on how to handle the issue, but let's not berate the answerer or the OP.


I expect there are more ways in which we can be more welcoming. If you have an experience you want to share about way(s) that this community has been less than welcoming to you, feel free to email me at called2voyage@gmail.com. I will keep our communication private. Of course, you're also welcome to reach out to the SE team, especially if you don't feel comfortable sharing your issue with me. I just want to be proactive about making our community a more welcoming place. If you are comfortable with me sharing our communication with other Space Exploration mods and/or the SE team, please let me know in your email. Thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ I for one, welcome our new scaly overlords. As a trusted member of the community I can be helpful i recruiting slaves for the underground sugar mines. Thus leading to a sweeter experience. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Apr 27 '18 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Good post. Will take it to heart and try to live up to new expectations. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble May 2 '18 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ Note that this blog post is highly controversial on SO and SE meta. Not everything therein should be taken at face value (while I agree with the overall sentiment). For example, it is not clear whether commenting on questions from new users with default messages that send them to the tour/help page is actually helpful or just incites unnecessary discussion that leaves the user more frustrated. $\endgroup$ – Polygnome May 11 '18 at 8:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome Please note, however, that discussion elsewhere aside, we will handle things here as they work best here, not elsewhere. We have not had many problems with users receiving guidance in the comments directing them to the tour and help pages. That said, we don't exactly use default messages either. We usually tailor each comment to the individual situation. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage May 11 '18 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage You are making very good points. I just wanted to note that that blog post isn't the universal truth. I certainly disagree with some passages contained therein (not with the overall sentiment, but the way some things are presented, and with certain conclusions they draw). My first big question would be whether or not Space.SE has any actual evidence that this problem applies here. Comments are handled quite fast here already, and I haven't really seen most of the problems SO is riddled over here. $\endgroup$ – Polygnome May 11 '18 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome As a mod, I can say we definitely have areas of improvement. Sure, we might be better than a lot of sites, but I think the positive reception of this post says something. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage May 11 '18 at 13:34
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There was a discussion in the chat room of Blender.se today about the same thing. They are a graduated site, with enough traffic that weariness has set in for them when handling their high number of unclear, very confused, or unresearched questions, opinion questions, spam, jokes... They also suffer from the fact that it is actually rather hard to search there for previous answers to your question - the key words are too common, or there is too many ways of saying it, or you need the knowledge you are looking for in order to know how to search for it. It will be a while before we have that level of traffic, but it's worth noting, the grind gets worse as sites grow.

From my own experience, I think some things help. If you aren't really in the mood but you see red dots in the review queue or something you could answer - let it go. To do this job well takes many hands. Stepping back actually helps more hands to appear and get accustomed to the work. I have had difficulty doing this sometimes. Especially when the work I'm actually supposed to be doing is more challenging than doing review, leaving comments, and whatnot. But when I do leave it, usually when I come back someone else has already done good work.

It is very easy to take a post the wrong way, especially comments or chat posts. The format is very terse, and text isn't good at getting across mood at the best of times. If I'm not in a good mood, I sometimes default to imagining all posts spoken in the voice of someone who makes me comfortable. Like Conan O'Brien. Just works for me.

Being a high rep member for me sometimes feels a bit uncomfortable (and also a former mod). I get defensive more easily when caught in a mistake. I had trouble with that before, having people think I know more than I do because otherwise how did I get so many points just makes it worse. There I said it. That helps. Sometimes the opportunity to clear the air about feelings is there and will really help if you take it. Other times it really isn't. It's a limitation of the format.

It is necessary to assume everyone you deal with is short on time. It can take the edge off when someone doesn't follow up, or takes a long time to respond. And it is likely true.

The thing about asking people to be kinder, is you have to give them tools to be kinder. Because we also have to be firm, and be able to criticize without being harsh, which is very challenging.

This entire endeavor has been built on volunteer work. Everything. We are a tiny enclave on Stack Exchange, there is no profit motive anywhere here whatsoever.

That's extraordinary. It makes me feel good about humanity.

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