I'm a little unhappy about the tenor of some of the comments on When asked to by a religious university, how can an instructor make a mathematics course spiritually uplifting?. The question is legitimate, and many of the answers are worthwhile. But a few of the comments do not add anything to the discussion and seem designed to raise the temperature. I've flagged those that I don't like, but I think it also worth mentioning it here.

In short, if you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say anything.

Note that I say "constructive", not "nice". I'm not asking for everyone to try to agree with one another, nor am I asking for people to hold back when they object to a question or answer. But there are ways of doing so that engage people and ways that disengage them. If we make the site unfriendly at the start, it will stay that way and people won't come here. If we go out of our way to make the site friendly, it will stay that way and people will come here.

I can only speak from my own experience, but the SE sites where I still contribute are the ones where I feel that my contributions will be accepted as intended, and the ones where I've stopped contributing are the ones where I feel that I might have to expend time and energy defending every single post.

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    $\begingroup$ This is too short to be an answer, so I'll put it here, but ... "Yes". $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ I also apologize for writing on a controversial topic. I thought it might be controversial, but I sincerely had this problem in my time at BYU, and the answers are extraordinarily helpful. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianRushton I thought the question a good question, and carefully phrased. It was the comments that some were leaving that I was unhappy with. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I protected the question (at least for the moment, but we can discuss this). For those that do not yet know what this means: it is a very mild thing to do and only prevents new users (<10 on the site) from adding answer; even one highrep user can do this normally. I also deleted the remaining flagged comments. That being said, I think we should collectively dicuss (but not in this thread) how much comment deletion we want on this site in general. I merely did this right away since many comments got already deletd and so it felt more consistent to delete all. Also they were offtopic. $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Religious topics on secular sites tend to attract this kind of trouble. I'm a moderator on Skeptics where we had similar issues, religion is simply a topic with huge potential for conflict. The solution we adopted was to declare purely religous questions as off-topic, and to moderate comments aggressively on on-topic questions on controversial topics. The huge problem is that one not-really-offensive but non-constructive comment is very likely to draw an at least borderline offensive comment from the opposing side, and then the cycle continues. $\endgroup$
    – user191
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist It doesn't surprise me to hear that Skeptics had to come up with rules for this one! I flagged the various comments with the intention that what you describe in your last sentence didn't happen (and, as far as I could see, it didn't). I regard the question as totally on topic and there are some very good answers. However, the now-deleted comments were leading the topic towards the definitely off-topic theme of "Can Mathematicians be religious?" and I think that has no place here. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 6:50
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.matheducators.stackexchange.com/q/267/77 $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ It seems this concern presents itself again more recently; I do not know about can, but I'm sure that we (all) should be more respectful. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 20:20

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I am a mod at Money.SE, and even before I wore that hat, I was a proponent of kindness. As a mod, I have the power to edit even a comment, turning "that's a stupid answer....." into "I disagree....." I'm hopeful that over time, members will see that there's a world of difference between a heated discussion with a difference of opinions, and ad hominem attacks.

Most members don't spend too much time in Meta, so the message needs to be delivered directly, via edits, and a warning to the offender. In some cases, a welcome note to the OP might be in order as well. Hopefully, a new member isn't turned off by one bad egg, and sees the group's response to such a comment or answer.


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