Well, we're a day into the nomination phase of Physics Stack Exchange's third election. We already have 8 candidates for the two positions available, and no doubt we'll get plenty more.

A pattern has begun to emerge, and it's not hard to see where it's leading. In both nominations and comments, a lot of fairly negative remarks have been made about some of the candidates and other users. Here are some that caught my attention:

  • In my experience, [user X] is most rude and arrogant user

  • Not only you should not be a moderator, you should be deprived of privilege of casting close votes. People like you are a scourge of this site.

  • Asking you about your vision on the site, you produced only arrogant reaction, and initiated the now quite common "ignore culture" on the chat.

There are others, as well as quite a few more implicit insults aimed at moderators and other users, but these are some of the main ones, coming from all sides (additionally, some others have been deleted, thankfully). Are they all over-the-top? Not really. But they build up to something that doesn't really give me confidence in this site. If I walked in without any prior knowledge about the candidates, I'd think that most were incompetent, mean, power-hungry wanna-be Scourges of Stack Exchange. I wouldn't want to vote.

Ad hominem attacks are, in general, not a good way to start any discussion about the way a site will evolve over time. The way things are going, I'm not convinced that this election will end well, and it certainly won't if people continue with name-calling.

So, can we try to be a little bit nicer during this election? It's not impossible; I've seen it done before on Stack Exchange. I'm not saying we need to talk only about sunshine and daisies; constructive criticism is fine. We just need to tone things down a little. Or a lot.

To make this an explicit question, do people think this is an issue, and can we avoid it in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree, and it's the kind of thing I was trying to poke fun at with my nomination. This community has very clearly split into two parties that can't talk to each other, as can be seen in every recent meta thread. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 27 '16 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ The comments showing this division are rude, but I think they show something important. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 27 '16 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ I think my comment (the last one cited) is perfectly reasonable & hardly ad hominem. Moderators should not be known as a regular complainer, they need to be able to handle complaints in a respectful and understanding manner; how can someone who whines about everything expected to be a good moderator? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 27 '16 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos While I personally support the message of that particular comment, I felt it was an example of a case where better phrasing could have been used. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 27 '16 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Removed, after more thought. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 27 '16 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Your third quote also sounds fine to me. It's just citing something that the candidate did. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 28 '16 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ @knzhou As the candidate in question, it's not something I "did". Unless it's "arrogant" to refuse further discussion when the other side fails to produce evidence to support their point and continually ignores my explicitly stated motives in favour of their own theory of what my motives are. I'm also certainly not the first user to ignore someone on the chat, so how I "initiated" an "ignore culture" is beyond me. I'm not saying this particular comment is so vitriolic it should be deleted, but it's certainly not a statement of fact, either. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mod Sep 28 '16 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ So, after yesterday's conversation thread with Shog9, how would you say we are doing at cutting out the vitriol so far? $\endgroup$ – Jim Sep 28 '16 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim No, I certainly wouldn't consider that one of the finer moments of this election. It may be an improvement over repeated remarks in the nomination thread, but it was not what I was looking for. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 28 '16 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @knzhou What ACuriousMind said. This was not a statement of fact, and came after a number of similar comments on said nomination. The tone was fairly consistent, and indicative of what I've tried to call attention to here. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 28 '16 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind It highlights a real issue, though. It's a fact that you've used the 'ignore' feature on many people in the chat room, and you propagated an 'ignore culture' by telling others they should do the same. That's fine for a user, but a problem for a mod. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Sep 28 '16 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ I feel better that I've never ignored someone on chat.... I think (he said, as he quickly looked at his ignore list) $\endgroup$ – Jim Sep 28 '16 at 14:58

I have deleted a few comments, including a conversation about wrongly used close votes. As a relative outsider (who nevertheless has enough reputation to vote), those comments did not help me understand the issues and concerns with the nomination they were attached to. Comments are a poor substitute for a meta question where arguments may be laid out without character or formatting restrictions.

Meanwhile, I allowed a few comments that verge toward violations of our Be Nice policy to remain. To be clear, that policy applies to nomination comments as everywhere else. However, running for moderator (and, in fact, being a moderator) puts your actions on the site in front of the community for review. If a user closes questions carelessly (to take a criticism made this election) the time to raise the issue with the community is before the election begins.

Even so, I will continue to delete comments that stray too far off track or read more as insults and less as criticisms. As always, if you find yourself getting agitated with another user, it's better to walk away from the computer than risk typing something regrettable.

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    $\begingroup$ @user104372 - most moderator candidates have been around for a long time. Why should casting a large number of downvotes be seen as an issue in need of pointing out? Downvotes have a purpose on all SE sites - using them for that purpose is participation and involvement. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Sep 27 '16 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ @user104372: Looking at the your meta comments that have been recently deleted, I don't think the problem is with being insulting, but that they stray from the topic of the post they (theoretically) are commenting on. Comments are pretty poor places to discuss whether a certain number of downvotes is a problem for a candidate. If you think this is a consideration voters should consider when thinking about moderators, you might consider asking a meta question. (On your other topic: at least one candidate said their nomination began as a joke. Not sure what the context was, however.) $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Sep 27 '16 at 16:36

If there are users that bear grudges against certain nominees, those comments shouldn't be deleted. It will only lead to even further confirmation of the kind of attitude you described: that there is a certain establishment on this site that acts kind of aggressive when it comes to counteracting policies and opinions they don't share.

Those comments should be seen as a chance to show leadership and maybe settle those accusations with some moderate and reasonable replies. That in turn could show voters who can actually step aside his opinions and represent the most of this community.

I find it troubling that there is a repeated shutdown and censorship of those people that feel to be underrepresented. Nevertheless, insults should be dealt with in the usual manner.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that legitimate complaints backed by reason and evidence and not just mere speculation and assumption should be allowed and encouraged. However, when it comes to baseless speculating, name-calling, libel, or accusations where gross assumptions were made to make a candidate into the villain, those should be discouraged and avoided. As a community, we should be able to put feelings aside and approach things with reason. We should be above letting petty feelings influence how we see the world and we should be above spite. Actions motivated thusly should be frowned on $\endgroup$ – Jim Sep 28 '16 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Preferably through the use of the ever-so-severe frowny face. Example: >:( $\endgroup$ – Jim Sep 28 '16 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Jim: Agreed. However, such methods, like baseless speculations etc., are most of the time just symptoms of a foregoing behaviour that may have been insulting or arrogant. For that, both sides share the same responsibility because neither of them was able to communicate in a civil way. This should be a concern that voters should think about. Thus, I argue that such comments, behind their superficial impression, may bring some value to this election, too. $\endgroup$ – image357 Sep 28 '16 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ This really depends on the origin of the comments. It could be perceived insults that led someone to respond in an uncivil way. It is unfortunate that text-based communication cannot convey tone or intent quite like in-person communication can. For what it's worth, I agree that voters should be aware whether or not a candidate is capable of maintaining civility; however, not strongly enough to advocate the allowance of uncivil discourse $\endgroup$ – Jim Sep 28 '16 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Marcel You have a point about baseless speculation (with determination) being what usually turns out to be a much clearer problem once things are investigated and discovered and held to a bit of scrutiny. However, wouldn't you say those things are far too important to just sit as comments, and would probably be better directed at us privately so we can look? I don't disagree with you, but nomination comments are the wrong venue. If there's something there, we certainly need to know about it urgently, especially now. $\endgroup$ – Tim Post Sep 30 '16 at 17:01

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