One of the huge positives I've seen at UX is the attitude of helpfulness in the community here. I'd like to think it's because professional empathy and exploring problems is part of the DNA of the UX profession, but I think it's probably also influenced largely by the comparatively smaller size of the UX/SE community versus others.

By comparison, I consider SO today to be a pretty hostile place for many community members, and I have stopped answering questions on SO as a result.

The purpose of this question is not to denigrate SO, but rather to ask whether we should be trying to use the positive opportunity to learn from SO's growth curve and see if there are approaches to moderation and question-scoping that can help maintain a positive culture of helpfulness at UX.

I will note that one of the problems with the SE system is, it measures and rewards correct answers quantitatively but does not measure the systemic cost to the community of hostile culture or jerks. In a normal team environment (e.g. company or club), such individuals are typically reprimanded or fired for their cost to the system, whereas it's harder to create an analogous approach here.

With this considered, my specific question is: have we analyzed the negative aspects of SO culture (and in particular, the dynamics of what happened) and considered whether we want to change our approach to admin/moderation here on UX?

This isn't a broad question....it can be answered with a Yes or No, but obviously more color would help.

  • 4
    This is somewhat opinionated, but I think one of the discerning factors is that UX questions are much more subjective than SO questions, both in terms of the answers given, and in terms of 'on-topicness' of the question. On SO, it's easier to immediately spot a bad question or a flat-out wrong answer. In other words, SO tolerates less by definition.
    – Rotem
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


If you distill the problem you've identified into just two words, I believe they would be: negative reinforcement.

In my view, the way that you combat that cultural spiral into negativity is to reinforce cultural norms that reward good contributions with positive reinforcement.

Some may argue that this is what voting is for, and to a degree it is. However, there are many ways to humanize the positive feedback that not only rewards the subject of the feedback, but demonstrates through example what the norms of this community are.

So if a particularly good question is asked, a comment praising not only the value of the contribution, but teasing specific pieces out for additional attention act to reinforce the desired behavior.

An example: if a new user has a particularly good answer that is well organized and also has external references, welcome the user with a comment commending their well thought out answer and mention how the referenced information was a valuable read.

I don't believe that this is kindergarten or that everyone deserves a gold star. But where SO is quick to shred a poor answer and explain in graphic detail the shortcomings of the user's contribution, we should be quick to properly acknowledge good contributions.

  • Great answer. By pointing out how to address this behaviorally with reinforcement, the issue gets addressed at right level rather than depending on a moderator or privileged user system to play cop. It prompted for me the distinction between investing in great answers, and investing in a community that produces great questions and answers. There is a difference.
    – tohster
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 8:04

I don't know of any analytics made in comparison to SO, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. But some of us here comes from that environment where questions can be punished to hell and back. For those of us who do, we don't like that kind of hostility, since every user here is eager to learn. Even those who come here for the first time asking questions and doesn't know how to do it the UX.SE way.

We, as in moderators and our helpful crowd of experienced users, do our best to help users to learn the rules, the topics and what is on topic. All to make this the best place online to find answers related to UX.

But since your question is quite broad ;-) I've taken the liberty to give an equally broad answer: post only things you'd like to read from others, and this will be the resource where you find answers to your UX questions.

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