Stack Overflow revamps its Code of Conduct to explain what ‘Be nice’ means – kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect

3 min read

Stack overflow has expanded its Code of Conduct which previously focused on just “Being Nice” to include more virtues around kindness, collaboration, and mutual respect. Recently, there has been many supporters of the idea that Stack Overflow is a “toxic wasteland”.

There is also a Reddit thread, from six months ago, where people have shared their woes on Stack Overflow being too toxic.

This Code of Conduct is a formal, far less ambiguous and a more informative way of Stack Overflow to regulate belittling language and condescension. It is applicable to everyone using Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange network, including the team, moderators, and anyone posting to Q&A sites or chat rooms.

The Be Nice policy, since its inception in 2008, was a single guiding principle that everyone was expected to follow. However, just two words turned out to be too little, too ambiguous and later, in 2014, a revised version of the policy was released to reflect Stack Exchange as a better community than what was believed on the Internet. The revised version also added instructions on how to report rare cases of bad behavior.  However, this still was not specific enough to meet the needs of a much larger dynamic site Stack Overflow was growing to be.

This is when, they decided to launch a more formal policy, one that covers “Be nice, here’s how, here’s why, and here’s what to do if someone isn’t.

The main tenets of the new code are:

  • If you’re here to get help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you.
  • If you’re here to help others, be patient and welcoming. Offer support if you see someone struggling or otherwise in need of help.
  • Be clear and constructive when giving feedback, and be open when receiving it.
  • Be kind and friendly. Avoid sarcasm and be careful with jokes, as tone can be hard to decipher online.

The code also denounces subtle put-downs or unfriendly language, name-calling or personal attacks, bigotry, and harassment.

stack overflow CoC

Source: Stack Overflow

In case someone is guilty of breaking the code of conduct, there are three stages:

  1. Warning: For most first-time misconduct, moderators will remove the offending content and send a warning.
  2. Account Suspension: For repetitive misconduct, moderators will impose a temporary suspension
  3. Account Expulsion: For very rare cases, moderators will expel people who display a pattern of harmful destructive behavior towards the community.

The Stack Overflow team plans to assess the CoC by taking feedback, every 6 months, from both new and experienced users about their recent experiences on the site. They have also added a code of conduct tag which members can use on Meta Stack Exchange to ask questions about or propose changes to the CoC.

You can go through the entire Code of Conduct on Stack Overflow.

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Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub. I blog about new and upcoming tech trends ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development.


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