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I was reading these exchanges about the (lack of) ability to follow other posters: Automating the ability to "follow" posters

I can follow posters, presumably like many others do, simply by checking their page once in a while so I don't absolutely need this.

However, the reasons given for not allowing this feature is that SE is not a social network.

This principle is clearly established and enforced in the way moderators manage interuser communication here. We are to be kind and welcoming, never have a temper nor make too many jokes. Emotion has little place here, except maybe for on-topic awe for some natural phenomena or genius physicist.

I can understand the logic behind this and my conclusion is that this is basically creating a Wikipedia in a Q&A form, and we are not supposed to read side jokes or dirty talks inside articles.

That being said, what is the point of having a page profile here? I am not asking about what I am supposed to enter in the description field.

What I am asking, is how does that fit into SE not being a social network? Is not a directory and the ability to create a chat room with any user, the prototype of a social network already?

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    $\begingroup$ I think you're overlooking the word "network" in "social network". $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ "creating a wikipedia in a Q&A form [...] what is the point of having a page profile here?" -- you realize that Wikipedia also has profile pages for its editors, right? I don't see the contradiction there. $\endgroup$ Mar 28 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Emilio Pisanty: the comparison was regarding the questions and answers, vs. articles, you are stretching the analogy. Also I don't recall Wikipedia stating anywhere this is not a social network. Lastly SE uses the term community whenever they see it fit to their agenda. A community is not a social network? Come on. $\endgroup$
    – Winston
    Mar 29 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how it's productive to have a semantic arguments in meta over the meaning of words. What would be productive, imho, is figuring out how to make this community more welcoming, in other words, how to make it less like a social network than it currently is, since social networks are often associated with toxic and abusive behavior. $\endgroup$
    – user442
    Mar 29 at 18:25
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The distinction between having social features (like a profile page and chat) and being a social network is also discussed in this mother meta question and in particular this answer.

Jeff Atwood explains the importance of having not only a main site and a meta but also a chat in the blog post introducing chat thus:

Because you not only need a place to have intelligent Q&A; [...] you need a place to talk about the place, and a less formal “third place” to collaborate in real time with the fellow members of your community.

Some discussions really are ill-suited to the non-linear Q&A format of the main/meta sites, and having the potential to use chat to discuss these in a more traditional conversational setting is useful. That this chat is then also used to socialize by some users is more of a side-effect than the intention.

As for profiles, I can't find any official word on them but it seems to me that the motivation here is mainly that the gamification via reputation points would be far less effective if users couldn't attach the points they're earning to a recognizable identity. The profile is the only place where users can enter almost anything they want to, and therefore make the account really "theirs".

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this would conflict with an ability to follow posters then. I fail to see the consistency. $\endgroup$
    – Winston
    Mar 29 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Winston Adding the ability to follow specific people would do exactly what the answer I linked in my first sentence calls "recognizing social networks" - it would recognize and encourage the generation of sub-networks (perhaps similar to "bubbles" in modern social network parlance) in the community of people who all follow each other. Such a fracturing of the site community by actual back-and-forth networking between specific people at large is precisely what Stack Exchange sites do general not want to encourage. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Mar 29 at 8:37

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