In my brief existence on Miyodea I have perceived a lot of pedantry. It is my belief that this is turning people away from the website and that this may constitute a chillul hashem.

For a recent example, read the comments for this question.

Does a finding of Jewish blood in a DNA test make one Jewish?

Can we change the rules to only flag questions as being unclear, irrelevant, beyond the scope, etc if many users flag them as such rather than placing this power in the hands of admins?

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    You should check out blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation and perhaps judaism.stackexchange.com/tour to understand how the site functions – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 13:16
  • If you look at the tag, you will see that I am requesting a feature. – Clint Eastwood Feb 13 '14 at 13:27
  • I see that. I have no doubt your request will be declined, but I tried to give you some useful information about why we do things the current way. – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 13:28
  • yes. The information was informative but I nonetheless deem the status quo to be inadequate. – Clint Eastwood Feb 13 '14 at 13:32
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    I agree that we need to work on the tone of our comments, but I can't tell if that's what you're asking about. (And to, err, be pedantic :-), I think "pedantry" and "tone" are orthogonal; there are good and bad ways to seek clarification, and avoiding the bad ones doesn't require avoiding the effort to seek clarification at all.) – Monica Cellio Feb 13 '14 at 15:08
  • Sorry for my confusion in a prior comment (now removed); it appears that the question was on hold when you asked this. (It isn't now and I hadn't thought to check the history, so just leaving the info for anybody else who is confused.) – Monica Cellio Feb 13 '14 at 15:11
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  • @Yirmeyahu Possible dupe? – Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 16:47
  • @DoubleAA, nah, this is a feature request: that moderators not have a deciding vote for closure. The other, though related, isn't. – msh210 Feb 16 '14 at 16:55
  • @msh210 You mean to tell me that 7 users want mods to lose binding votes while only 2 users oppose such a change? – Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 17:06
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    @DoubleAA, not necessarily. The tootips over the arrows say, respectively, "This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear" and "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful". – msh210 Feb 16 '14 at 17:10
  • @msh210 ?? I know you know that voting on meta is different even if they didn't bother to change to tooltip – Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 17:11
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    @DoubleAA, I know that. But that doesn't mean all voters vote using the same criteria I use. – msh210 Feb 16 '14 at 17:12
  • @msh210 And you and I are the only ones who use standard SE voting criteria? – Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 17:14
  • @DoubleAA, that not everyone does doesn't imply that only you and I do. (As you know. Or I hope so, anyway.) Anyway, let's continue this in Bam if you wish to continue it. – msh210 Feb 16 '14 at 17:27

Assuming from the discussion tag that this is also a best practice question, and being unfamiliar with any rules that would prevent the following suggestion, I would suggest a simple solution to this and similar issues that I have seen:

If it is readily apparent what the OP is attempting to and failing to ask (particularly if they themselves express it in a comment but aren't familiar enough to realize they should edit their post), instead of (somewhat coldly) pointing out their failure, take 8 seconds to edit the post to help out the novice participant (which is what I did upon seeing the conversation going on in the comments of that question). If you want, you could then follow your edit with a ping to the OP asking if he approves of your edit, as a mod once did for me.

There is no need to be so exacting with people who merely don't realize what is expected of them. Let's be helpful instead of standing on ceremony!

  • Just to note that editing a question to change what is being asked and pinging the OP to confirm should really only be done if the question is currently closed (ie, no new answers until confirmation is received). – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 23:08
  • @DoubleAA I don't know what official policy is, but the mod who did so for my question did so on an open question. – Y     e     z Feb 14 '14 at 0:11
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    @DoubleAA (and I appreciated it) – Y     e     z Feb 14 '14 at 0:12
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    This is a good idea, I think. That way you open the dialogue having already attempted to help! – Baby Seal Feb 14 '14 at 6:54
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    I don't agree with your comment, @DoubleAA, in the case that the edit is done to clarify what the editor thinks the OP's intent was most likely anyway. – msh210 Aug 11 '16 at 5:53

I do not think that the issue at hand is that absolute power be taken away from moderators (that isn't going to happen). But I do think that some more sensitivity from moderators is definitely in order.

The first moderator comment (preceding the mod closing the question) was "Insight into what?", in response to the unclear question given by the OP: "Any insight would be appreciated!".

If I was the OP, I also would have been confused about this (and would have been scared away by mod attitudes like this. He had a question in his mind. He just needed some help to frame it. A couple of more sentences in the beginning along the lines of: "Please be more specific about what your question is and how it relates to this site."

Instead of writing: "None of us know you, your DNA results, your ancestry, or your family history, and we are a community of experts on Judaism not genetics. What would we be able to offer you?" you could frame it in a tone that feels less aggressive and more helpful, trying to aid the user into framing their question better.

I was embarrassed to see the exchange in the comments on that post, and am thankful for Monica's helpful follow up comment.

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    Actually the post was closed 28 seconds before the first comment on the post. I don't know why it matters, but apparently you thought it relevant enough to mention. – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 15:24
  • So you closed it right away before addressing any comments at all to the new user about the issues on the post that led you to close it? – Yaakov Ellis Feb 13 '14 at 15:25
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    I closed and left a comment as simultaneously as humanly possible. (I don't think leaving a comment is necessarily a component of deletion closing. Consider this post which I deleted this morning, or this post closed by msh210 yesterday.) – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 15:26
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    So then my suggestion is to avoid the "shoot first & ask questions later" moderation style. Maybe next time reach out to the user before closing? – Yaakov Ellis Feb 13 '14 at 15:29
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    That is exactly not the way closing is supposed to work! We put questions on hold so they don't get bad answers. They can always be reopened. The language is even changed from "closed" to "on hold" to emphasize this point. – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 15:31
  • The question history says Post Closed as "unclear what you're asking. So you are saying that on the question itself it says "On Hold" at this time (sounds like a bug in the history line title then). – Yaakov Ellis Feb 13 '14 at 15:32
  • Any question on Stack Exchange which is closed (except duplicates) says "on hold" for the first five days before changing to "closed". See the FAQ, but they are the same thing functionally . – Double AA Feb 13 '14 at 15:34
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    Either way - I still feel that the approach taken in the first few comments to the OP were pretty heavy-handed. – Yaakov Ellis Feb 13 '14 at 15:34
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    I agree wholeheartedly. Maybe we can be more terse with people who have been around a while, but we need to be gentle with newer posters. This site works in a very specific way that takes some getting used to. I wish we lived in a generation where honest, merciless, productive critique was not only not perceived as a personal attack, but appreciated. We just don't, though. I have also experienced comments from moderators that are very obtuse and confusing. In the particular situation I recall, the critique was ultimately stated clearly, but only after I asked for clarification more than once. – Baby Seal Feb 14 '14 at 6:52

I'm more or less a fairly objective observer as I don't know the user nor the mod, and I figured this perspective might be helpful. There may be some past history feeding into the responses to this that I am unaware of, but here are my observations based solely on this post.

Based on the original version of the question, I think the initial comment was reasonable. There was no question. The comment asks what the OP was looking for. Once the OP clarified and asked an actual question (in a comment), Double AA replied,

If you were wondering that you can ask that, but that isn't what you did in this post.

This is a helpful comment, it clearly indicates that the OP's actual question is not being clearly conveyed in his post. It is stated matter-of-factly, not rudely (some folks may not like bluntness, but that doesn't make it inherently rude nor indicate a bad attitude). At this point the correct response from the OP would be to edit the post in order to clarify the question.

However, the OP's response misinterpreted a matter-of-fact statement as the user/mod being 'offended,' which it was then clarified was not the case.

To me this seems to be a lot of hullabaloo about a misunderstanding. Quite simply, there was no question, it was unclear what was being asked (if anything). A comment made this clear, asking for clarification. Once it was received, it was explained that the actual question was fine, but that is not what was conveyed by the post. The OP misinterpreted the comment as the user/mod being 'offended' when s/he was not, and the user/mod clarified this.

This is not an example of rude communication nor pedantry. It's a simple case of a question that didn't actually ask a question being (rightly) closed as unclear (which is an SE-wide standard), seeking clarification in comments, and then being misunderstood by the OP.

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    We live in a pretty squishy generation, if you will. Disagreements are very easily taken personally. I think that the asker's general point is that we need to be more sugar-coated with new users, so that they remain users. I appreciate DoubleAA's frankness. It is awesomely in line with what he has posted in his about me section, and it usually gets the job done without mincing words or meandering. But that is because I feel like I know him and how he offers constructive criticism. New users don't, and people in general are super sensitive nowadays. – Baby Seal Feb 14 '14 at 7:00
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    Basically I think we all should pull punches for the first few hundred reputation. – Baby Seal Feb 14 '14 at 7:03

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