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Due to recent events, I would like to amend the Main Chatroom Etiquette Guidelines.

  • First of all, a minor issue and not based on recent events, I would like to clarify that they apply to all site chatrooms. I had that in mind when I wrote them, that's why I added the Main, but I can see that it can be conceived as in main chatroom, i.e. The Periodic Table.

  • Second, also minor and marginally related to recent events, the guidelines still point to be-nice-policy. We'll have to make some minor adjustments and point to the Code of Conduct. That part is actually not really up for discussion, and also has only a tiny impact overall.
    If you have requests, suggestions, or other comments regarding this point, we will of course consider them, too.

  • Third, and here comes the kicker, I would like to add another point. This is in regards to a discussion we had, which is a bit older: Homework requests in Periodic Table chat? Many points raised in there are still applicable, but I do now feel the need to follow through with what I wrote in my answer there.

    If it becomes difficult to have a normal conversation there, because someone constantly asks about homework, we might need to amend our guidelines with a more specific point.

    Therefore I suggest modifying point 3 and inserting another point into the guidelines after it. I will make a suggestion below, which can be seen as a template for improvement, but first let's get all on one page.

    (Current version.)

    1. Pinging people in chat is awesome and you can ensure that the target people get the message. But nobody wants to hear the constant "donk" noise all the time. Use it when necessary, but try not to use it any instance possible.

    I would like to change the last sentence to be a bit more concise. And I would like to insert a no means no statement here (gosh I never thought that would be necessary frowney). After that I would like to insert another point raising the issue of unrelated pinging of random people.

    (Proposed version.)

    1. Pinging people in chat is awesome and you can ensure that the target people get the message. But nobody wants to hear the constant "donk" noise all the time. Try to use it sparingly and only when necessary. If someone asks you to stop pinging, please honour that request.
    2. Chat is a place of interaction between users. If you have a questions about chemistry (or something else), you are very welcome to post it. Just post it, there is no need to ask if there are experts around. Please remember that you might not get a positive or any response. You should not ping users to get their attention to your question, especially not when you are not regularly conversing with them.

    I always wanted the chat to be as open as possible and for the longest time that seemed to have worked quite well. That is the reason why the guidelines are guidelines and not rules; and the list is a we prefer instead of a don't do this. We haven't had the need to show anyone those in a long time, but now that I need to, I find these crucial point missing.

    I am actually very sorry to have to bother any of you with that, because that's like violating the first item on the list.

  • Fourth, if there is anything else missing, this may be a good time to add it in too.

  • Fifth, you might have noticed the absence of ChemoBot. Yes, we all are sad about this. I propose to add a notice to the answer saying, I'm on an extended vacation.

Please discuss and vote on any of the points in an answer below. It is important to be an answer, not a comment, so that it can be voted on, and eventually serve as the accepted answer to document our process.
Since this is a matter of some urgency, the discussion will be closed on the 5th September 2018.

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How are you going to enforce the current or proposed new guideline? Rather than trying to bend other people's behavior to suit ourselves, it is much easier to do things that are already within our control.

But nobody wants to hear the constant "donk" noise all the time.

If you don't like it, in Chrome you can right-click the tab and then click "mute tab". I check chat when I want to see chat. I don't get disturbed by people pinging me even though they do. I see their message when I want to see it.

Out of the two versions given for article (3), I much prefer the proposed new one, which says:

Try to use it sparingly and only when necessary.

instead of:

Use it when necessary, but try not to use it any instance possible.

One of them orders people to do something the way they want, whereas the other one tells them to try to do something the way they want. The new version is a lot less demanding, but in my opinion both versions are overly demanding since if you don'g like the "donk" noise you can always mute your tab.

If someone asks you to stop pinging, please honour that request.

How about a proposed version that says "If you get annoyed by too much pinging, please mute your tab" ?

I'm sorry that I had not seen the discussion that seems to have motivated this proposal: Homework requests in Periodic Table chat?

My opinion is slightly the opposite. As a professor I get questions from students (and even from people all over the world who are NOT my students, who are able to email me because my email address is publicly available in my publications and on various websites) all the time. I have no control over this! No one has made it illegal for them to do this! Instead I just choose which ones I want to reply to. I don't know why anyone has to feel obligated to answer questions about homework here?

Is it not possible to make "homework questions" off-topic except for in a "homework questions chatroom"? This way only the people who want to see such questions will see them?

Now I didn't know about this problem where people are being extremely annoying by pinging people constantly for homework help. When I read this I had in mind that people were being pinged for more valuable reasons and the people being pinged were ignoring them. Ignoring someone that in good-faith is trying to get in touch with you about something, and is genuinely not trying to annoy you, can also be considered harassment sometimes, especially when the person you're trying to get in touch with has some type of power over you:

enter image description here

Do we want to encourage stone-walling or emotional cruelty? I don't.
We have the proposal to add "If someone asks you to stop pinging, please honour that request" but nothing encouraging people to please honour the request of people asking for something. I'm not saying we have to have either, but the proposal here is to do something in favor of ignoring people that are reaching out to you, without anything related to discouraging stone-walling or ghosting, so it doesn't seem neutral at all.

So I have a slightly different proposal:

"Pinging people in chat is awesome and you can ensure that the target people get the message."

is not actually true because it doesn't ensure that the target people get the message (especially when people mute their tabs or ignore notifications from certain chat rooms. Plus according to what you're saying, it is not always awesome.

But nobody wants to hear the constant "donk" noise all the time.

This seems like a weak reason for requesting that people don't do it often, and when annoying people see only one weak reason for not doing what they feel they need to do, they're still going to do it.

So I would recommend (borrowed slightly from Martin's answer to Meta question about homework pinging):

In chat, try to ping people only when answering a certain question, replying to a previous point, or directing something specific at someone. Try to use it sparingly and only when necessary.

I thought about adding "Excessive pinging can be flagged and you can get banned temporarily or permanently from chat if you do it too much", but really I think it's easier to enforce workarounds such as:

  • making homework questions off-topic except for in a homework questions chat room
  • muting the tab if you don't like the 'donk' sound. If you want to hear the 'donk' for questions of certain topics and not for others, then it might be better not to follow certain chatrooms (such as the homework-questions chatroom)
  • maybe more helpful would be a "mute this user" feature, but with the above two workarounds I don't see why we would need to do that.

Update: there is an ignore this user feature:

enter image description here

If we want to add:

if someone asks you to stop pinging them, please try to honour that request

I think it would only be fair to also have:

If someone pings you for something, please try to honour their request, or politely tell them that you do not want to be pinged. If they continue to do so, flag for moderator attention.

Just as in every aspect of life, you don't make laws or rules taking away people's rights to send you an email. Instead of controlling other people's behaviour, you do what you have control over, which is to block notifications, and the regular laws of harassment and abuse still apply, so if someone is being constantly vexatious, it falls under harassment and doesn't need a separate law or rule.


In summary, I do not see the point of adding:

(4) Chat is a place of interaction between users. If you have a questions about chemistry (or something else), you are very welcome to post it. Just post it, there is no need to ask if there are experts around. Please remember that you might not get a positive or any response. You should not ping users to get their attention to your question, especially not when you are not regularly conversing with them.

if we were to just make homework questions off-topic except for in a homework chat room. Then (3) should in my opinion be something more like:

(3) In chat, try to ping people only when answering a certain question, replying to a previous point, or directing something specific at someone. Try to use it sparingly and only when necessary.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the issue here is that, although it is not very clearly stated, these proposed guidelines are being targeted... fairly specifically at something that has been happening recently. If you ignore somebody who is, in good faith, trying to converse with you, then I agree that it is certainly not nice. But on the flip side, if you have a user who is constantly bugging you for homework help - and this has happened, in a rather impolite way which has annoyed people on multiple SE sites - it is also not nice. $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Sep 2 '18 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I'm not aware of what's been going on or who this user is, so sorry for my ignorance. However all this is being targeted at one specific user? Is this really the way to handle it? How about sending the user a warning? The CoC even talks about the "warning" stage and then eventually the "banned from network" stage as the most extreme. $\endgroup$ – user1271772 Sep 2 '18 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ At the end of the day there is some common sense needed when moderating, both on the site, but especially so in chat where there is more "human" interaction between people. I think both you and Martin are right, but it depends on a case by case basis. [addendum: take all this with a pinch of salt, as it's just my opinion.] $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Sep 2 '18 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ Please don't apologise about it! Yes, you are correct about that. Actually, the user has been spoken to several times, both in a nice manner and in less nice manners, and has also been suspended from chat once (by other moderators) - it doesn't seem to have changed his behaviour much. So, I'm personally not sure what effect this will have in the current case, but I think part of the intention is to have some rules for when this sort of thing happens again (people like these are very rare, but we've had more than one). $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Sep 2 '18 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ I see. Okay well I think it doesn't help to put in a code of conduct (or whatever it is that Martin gave articles (3) and (4) of.... for the record it is some document that even I didn't know existed) that the "donk" noise is too annoying for some people. I suspect the user you're talking about does not even know about articles (3) and (4) of this policy, and even if they did, they would criticise it by saying that annoyed users should turn off the "donk" noise. My suggestions after the "In summary" part, are to change it to something that's more bulletproof. $\endgroup$ – user1271772 Sep 2 '18 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ i.e. they cannot say "it's your fault for not muting the tab" or "it's your right to ignore the question". The point is that the "donk" noise isn't actually the problem, and my modification removes the part about the "donk" and just explains guidelines for when it's appropriate to ping people (which was actually just words borrowed from Martin himself in his answer to the Meta from 2 years ago!). $\endgroup$ – user1271772 Sep 2 '18 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ I was younger back then, and I had a lot less experience, also I wasn't a moderator, so there are certainly some shortcomings. These guidelines are a kind of house rules, and they are a lot less strict than in other rooms. They are in a way not necessary at all, especially since we have the new code of conduct, because that basically already determines what a user is not allowed to do. I could have pointed offending users to that (it's a lot less clear), waited to see if anything changes, and issued a suspension. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 2 '18 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ About that donk noise; obviously I could change that to whatever, so this serves basically as a metaphor for any notification. I'm often in multiple rooms, most of them more important than or main one, and I'd like to get all the other notifications. There is no way to turn off the bell for a specific room; and I refuse to let a small groups of users dictate which notifications I get and which I don't. Also if someone complains about a specific user, I would have eventually have to deal with that, even if I had ignored that user previously. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 2 '18 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ I have the chemistry chat open in one window and the QCSE chat open in another window and I've right-clicked the QCSE chat tab and pressed "mute tab" so I don't get notifications for that room. Wouldn't this suffice for your situation? Anyway I think "In chat, try to ping people only when answering a certain question, replying to a previous point, or directing something specific at someone. Try to use it sparingly and only when necessary." tells people they shouldn't excessively ping users and doesn't need to talk about the "donk" noise which some users might contest. $\endgroup$ – user1271772 Sep 2 '18 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @user1271772 No absolutely not. And it shouldn't, but that's a story I won't go into detail in the comments. I am in the Periodic Table, so that I am pingable for Chemistry.se users, it defeats the purpose to mute that tab. I could ignore that user, sure, but I refuse to use that resort, as I think destructive behaviour should be dealt with head on. The 'donk' noise is a meta-meme, that's why I used it; if you don't like the wording, I could live without it. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 4 '18 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think the issue here is that, although it is not very clearly stated, these proposed guidelines are being targeted... fairly specifically at something that has been happening recently. The mods can deal with that one person directly, no? $\endgroup$ – Avnish Kabaj Sep 9 '18 at 7:00

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