29

In How do we differentiate between religion and fiction? a user observed SFF.se is "cliquey".

Valorum - "Let the downvotes be your guide. What you're suggesting is not 'nice' and we're all about 'be nice' here."

ATB - "I dispute that. Given the cliquey nature of the site"

I've personally never felt a cliquey vibe here; without making a call for shout-outs to particular users or sites, I'm curious: What is currently going on that would make our site seem exclusive? How can a Q&A site have the social dynamics necessary for the formation of cliques?

I know SE sites are not constructed to be conducive to private messaging between members, or for social media-type platforms, so as far as I can tell the main way to communicate with fellow users is either through comments or via chat. As a room owner of Mos Eisley when I am actually in chat, I do try¹ to welcome newcomers and invite him/her to participate, and make conversation with him/her -- but that's me. It can take a little while to get into the groove in chat; I realize it's an imperfect medium. Chatter is discouraged in comments, so it's difficult to make connections that way, as well.

But maybe some feel there are upvote/downvote cliques? Or ... wut?

If SFF.se is "clique-y", what can individual users do to alleviate this impression? Do we even want to try?

Fundamentally, are we a "I'm not here to make friends" site? I suspect answers to this question vary by individual, but because of the nature of Stack Exchange's platform, it seems to me that it is not easy to spawn exclusive groups on site. I'm wondering what others think about this issue.

¹I'm not perfect and I'm positive I haven't personally greeted every new user to chat!

  • 3
    For what its worth, I joined about a bit under a year ago and I have only noticed people being welcoming towards me. I do think that because many of the high rep users are also the core users in chat it can be intimidating for new users at first. – Bellerophon Sep 24 '16 at 17:13
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    I suspect that user was more thinking about the groupthink mentality where an unpopular post can receive a downvote storm within minutes, not through concerted action, but simply because most regular site-users think much the same things when confronted with a controversial post. – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 17:16
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    @Bellerophon I would disagree on many of the high-rep users being also the core users in chat. Seven of the eight highest-rep users on the site rarely use chat these days, while some of the most active chat users (such as steelerfan) do very little on the main site. – Rand al'Thor Sep 24 '16 at 17:31
  • @Randal'Thor I agree that many high rep users don't use chat but most of chats core users are high rep. A quick scan right now shows that of the 10 most recent chatters 6 are extremely high rep including one mod. Furthermore two of the four that are not is are mods on different sites so although they are low rep here they are still quite intimidating to a new user. – Bellerophon Sep 24 '16 at 17:45
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    As someone who doesn't (currently) use chat, but does occasionally nip in to observe the transcript, I'd argue that this site is pretty cliquey, but far less so than other sites in the Stack Exchange Network. – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 23:53
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    After some though, I've voted to close as "opinion-based". I really don't see that the question as written is particularly constructive since almost by definition, anyone who's "in" will say no, and anyone who considers themselves to be "out" will say yes. – Valorum Sep 25 '16 at 0:02
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    Which the currently existing answers seem to contradict, though. This seems like a reaonable discussion to be held by the community and I don't see how every answer necessarily has to be biased, which seems a rather pessimistic assumption. If this can't be discussed and possibly solved (if necessary) by the community itself, then who can it be brought forward to and how will it get solved? – TARS says Reinstate Monica Sep 25 '16 at 0:19
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach - It's a bit like asking a room full of people if they're happy. The happy ones will say yes. The sad ones won't say anything. – Valorum Sep 25 '16 at 0:25
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    @Valorum - Your answer indicated that unhappy people tend to be quite vocal on this site, though. – Adamant Sep 25 '16 at 0:50
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    @Valorum -- I don't think you ought to presume to speak for the entire site, as to how they would respond to my question. As for it being non-constructive, what is more constructive than trying to figure out how to change problematic dynamics on the site? Before anything, perhaps it would be useful to figure out exactly what constitutes a clique on SFF, yes? :) – Slytherincess Sep 25 '16 at 3:12
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    @Valorum Luckily, voting provides a way for people who don't want to say anything to express their view on the matter. – Ward - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 '16 at 4:17
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    How can something be "primarily opinion based" on meta, I thought that was half the reason we HAD meta? – Skooba Sep 26 '16 at 18:19
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  • @Slytherincess - You don't think the site is cliquey because you're not one of the cool kids like me. :) – Wad Cheber Oct 2 '16 at 3:00
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    @WadCheber - <Molly Ringwald eyeroll> – Slytherincess Oct 6 '16 at 23:33
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SFF (main Q&A site)

  • No.

    No, there's no major overt cliquishness on the Q&A site. Not at the core where it matters.

    • Good quality answers are welcomed, by and large, independently of who posts them. Ditto questions.

    • I have seen individual users explicitly encourage especially good content from a new user, be it Qs or As. Not as a common rule, but pretty often.

    • When experienced/respected/high-rep users post less than stellar content, they get called out on it, including and especially by other experienced/respected/high-rep users.

  • Yes

    There are some cliquish aspects that do show up, albeit small ones and not really very important.

    • Clearly, people upvote good posts from established "popular" users more than random posts (this is a personal opinion, mostly based on anecdotal observation - some less than stellar answers of mine got far more upvotes than I personally thought they deserved). However, this effect is rather small and not usually impacting new users.

      Entirely anecdotally, I personally frequently try and do the opposite - when I see a good new-user answer, especially one competing with mine, I try to encourage said answer, always with an upvote and sometimes with a positive comment (up to and including telling OP that the competing answer deserves an "accept" instead of mine). It's an approach that seems to be well designed to avoid cliquish issues and hopefully, emulated by other experienced users to an extent.

    • Clearly, some people downvote posts by specific less popular users. This to me is a far more cliquish thing to do. I won't name names but we all know who I speak of as a prime example - people openly admitted on Meta, in cleartext, that they do so. However, again, the scope of this effect is rather small and impacts very few users, which doesn't minimize the fact that its a Bad Thing.

    • Clearly, there are cliques of users who negatively react to certain types of questions (based on subjective opinions, not objective site rules). This is a bad, but unavoidable, side effect of having anonymous voting not governed by almost any focused rules. Again, the effect of this is - in large picture - somewhat contained.

    • There's a certain amount of snobbishness about specific types of questions (with bordering-on-not-nice accusations of "trivia", "boring", etc... at times leveled at perfectly ontopic questions), but while it is - imho - a negative side to the site, it's not really a sign of cliques since many long time experienced users are openly supportive of such questions - and many such accusations come from less active users.

    • Clearly, some of the social aspects of the site as a community leak over into main Q&A, mostly via comments. Memes. In-jokes. Backreferences. Just funny comments. Personal interplay. Again, I don't think this has a big effect on how people perceive the Q&A site at large, but it's there. I am definitely guilty of all of these, and therefore please take the assessment as biased.

  • Perception is reality. And perception is Yes

    This has nothing to do with SFF as an individual site. Any SE site with objective quality standards can easily be perceived as cliquish due to the philosophy and mechanics of how SE works - requirement for focused objective questions, and high-quality, evidence-backed answers, automatically establishes the "in" clique of people who get the idea AND know how to produce such content; AND the "out" people who don't, and feel excluded when less good content they produce gets down-voted/VTCed.


Meta site

  • YES

    Meta site is much more cliquey than main site. Predictably so.

    First, the fact of participating in Meta already makes people into insiders.

    Second, because Meta frequently doesn't have objective standards of the main site, so people vote their feelings/opinions, rather than objective quality.

    Third, topics discussed on Meta are basically site politics, in a lot of cases, which is basically the most fertile ground for cliques.


Main chat (Mos)

  • YES

    I won't bother detailing this, just to stay classy. Mos is incredibly cliquey. It's largely inevitable. It's a social chatroom with relatively few active users, how could it be otherwise?

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    This is another thoughtful answer -- thank you :) I like this answer because you've outlined some specific behaviors that established users engage in that can be perceived as clique-ish, and I personally appreciate that. Regarding Mos, where does the difference between a clique and just plain companionship lie? Anyhow, +1 :) – Slytherincess Sep 25 '16 at 11:21
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    Some very good points made in this answer. One question: can you elaborate a bit on how Mos is cliquey? Speaking as one of the regulars there, I always welcome new chatters if they arrive when I'm in the room, and try to make them feel at home. Although there are undoubtedly memes and in-jokes in Mos which would need to be explained to non-regulars, the only times I can remember seeing newish users snubbed was when they'd already been around long enough to establish themselves as ... shall we say, disruptive. – Rand al'Thor Sep 25 '16 at 12:24
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    @Randal'Thor - no, sorry, i will not elaborate. The less I spend thinking about WHoSaV, the better for my mental tranquility. But just to clarify, I did NOT in any way mean to imply that Mos is cliquey to new users specifically. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 25 '16 at 14:21
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    Sound pretty reasonable +1. – Steve Harrington Sep 27 '16 at 7:30
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    I think some people take Downvotes on Meta too personally, when its supposed to be just agree/not agree – bleh Oct 4 '16 at 22:04
  • Questions are a different story however. Extremely cliquish – KyloRen Oct 12 '16 at 11:49
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This answer takes a deliberately pessimistic, devil's advocate tack. I don't actually think we're all that cliquish, I just want to challenge a few assumptions here and there.

Taking your questions out of order:

How can a Q&A site have the social dynamics necessary for the formation of cliques?

Any time you get enough humans together and ask them to accomplish something, cliques will form. It is inevitable. The question is not how you avoid cliques. The question is how you can leverage them to make the group as a whole more welcoming instead of less welcoming.

What is currently going on that would make our site seem exclusive?

Having said all that, cliques can form in a number of different ways. On the one hand, you can have natural divisions arising from meaningful and important differences, and on the other hand, you can have artificial divisions imposed by social norms, based on whatever arbitrary factor happens to be convenient (race, gender, etc.). Divisions may also be horizontal (tags, tag clusters) or vertical (rep, privileges).

It's my opinion that natural divisions are less problematic than artificial divisions, and horizontal divisions are less problematic than vertical divisions. The existence of rep is a vertical division, and somewhat arbitrary (Why is an upvote worth 10 points? Because that's just How It Works), but rep is not meaningless because it is earned rather than given. Nevertheless, the stratification may prove intimidating to new users, or suggest to them that the clique of high-rep users is in some sense "better" or more important than everyone else. But on the other hand, this is just as true of any SE site.

Part of the difference between us and, say, Worldbuilding.SE, is that many of our questions have definitive right answers. Moreover, many of these questions are frankly trivia ("Did character X ever do thing Y?" and the like). This can make the rep divide a bit more intimidating than it might otherwise be because:

  • It exacerbates the FGITW problem (a disproportionate share of votes go to the first answer rather than the best answer).
  • It advertises the encyclopedic level of knowledge of many of our top-rep users.
  • Both these things contribute to the impression that new users cannot compete with experienced users either in time or in comprehensiveness.

Given that Math.SE handles such "hard questions" on a regular basis, they might be a more interesting contrast than Worldbuilding:

  • They are incredibly friendly towards less mathematically experienced users. They will happily write a lengthy answer to explain a person's simple misconception in great detail.
  • They often try to answer simple questions with hints rather than with definite answers, to encourage the asker to figure it out on their own.
  • They have the soft-question tag, which allows for much more subjective questions than you see on most SE sites, especially relative to the strict black-and-white nature of mathematics itself.

If SFF.se is "clique-y", what can individual users do to alleviate this impression? Do we even want to try?

One solution that I have seen work elsewhere is to welcome new people to a particular clique (tag cluster) in addition to welcoming them to the group (site) as a whole. This welcome should be particular to each clique, and provide resources which are uniquely helpful to new members of that clique (for example, you might welcome a Harry Potter fan with links to Mugglenet, Accio Quote, Pottermore, etc.). I'm not certain how well this would work on a SE site, but it's something to consider.

Regardless, experienced users should try to imagine the site from the perspective of someone who's never even heard of Stack Exchange, or whose only exposure to it is Googling things and reading the answers. There are quite a lot of rules (e.g. don't post duplicates) and social norms (e.g. downvotes aren't personal) which are not at all obvious to someone who hasn't spent a significant amount of time lurking at the site. Try to be patient with new people who have not learned these things, but accept that you will not reach everyone.

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    Oh, man, this is a great answer and it deserves many more upvotes! +1 You almost convinced me to go hang out in Mathematics.se :)) Your whole answer is good, but I particularly related to your thoughts on meta. I've always felt like I don't fit in with meta. Recently I gave an answer that was both down and upvoted, while another user gave an almost identical answer to mine, and his answer was heartily upvoted. That was frustrating to me. Even though I have high rep, I sometimes feel like I don't quite fit in. I imagine others might feel the same way. :) – Slytherincess Sep 25 '16 at 11:57
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I do clearly view myself as being an outsider, and chose to participate regardless of that perception. Part of the reason why I feel like an outsider is because I don't have the chops to contribute good answers in the popular areas (comics, Star Wars/Trek, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings), and part of it is because I tend to take unpopular positions in meta discussions. I'm sure many of my positions are unpopular because they're wrong, but I can't help thinking that if I had more social currency the approach would be "let's see why this might make sense" instead of "probably wrong so I'll stop reading once I find something I disagree with." To be clear I don't feel like I've been terribly mistreated by anyone, and I'm not looking for sympathy. For better or worse, right or wrong, this is my perception. I bring it up because your question is all about perception.

Also, I've seen more drama, politics, and controversy here than any other SE meta site that I read. I believe this also contributes to a perception of being cliquish. Here are some examples of the drama/politics/controversy

  • The chatroom was closed multiple times, and almost permanently.
  • There seemed to be widespread support for a moderator bid by someone recently banned for sock puppetry.
  • A long time contributor (and former mod if memory serves) deleted their account based on the election of a new mod.
  • A old mod was forcibly removed from their position by the CM team due to significant and persistent disagreements. (If this is an unfair characterization please edit to correct.)
  • etc.

I'm sure similar things are present elsewhere in the network, but things are quite lively even though you portray the social aspect as very limited.

Finally there are inside jokes and the like here which are inescapable. Those types of things also tend to be exclusionary to those not "in the know" or with "the in crowd." I believe one of the inside jokes was in praise of your contributions and along the lines that you were really J.K. Rowling in disguise. Regardless of the veracity of the joke it shows you are part of the in crowd IMO, which might be why you have trouble identifying with those who aren't.

I've only been around for under a year though so maybe I joined right as the flavor of the site changed.

  • 2
    This seems like a very fair assessment of the drama that's occurred over the last year – Valorum Sep 26 '16 at 23:00
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    As an addition (that I don't feel is worth its own answer) to the "in-joke" point you bring up, there's also this meta post, which was created in order to let newcomers in on jokes (like the one you mention) but IMHO only has the contrary effect of possibly strengthening any perceived clique atmosphere by emphasizing those in-jokes and the partaking users. I know it's inspired by similar posts on other metas, but I hold that stance against those posts, too. – TARS says Reinstate Monica Sep 26 '16 at 23:15
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    If anything I think you understate the recent drama. It's been a turbulent year – Jason Baker Sep 27 '16 at 1:59
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach I hadn't considered that point of view. I personally find those interesting insights into the popular crowd on a stack. I probably learned the quoted joke from that thread or a similar one. – Erik Sep 27 '16 at 2:18
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    Separate from the rest of this answer, i'd like to point out that calling popular tags "core areas" is a very bad approach. No topic is more important than another (this comes both from my general considerable experience on SE, as well as more personal experience as an active participant in both most popular tags *and very low-popularity tags, where I am literally one of two or 3 participants on entire site) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 27 '16 at 13:50
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    @DVK-in-exile I agree that no tag is more important to the site than another but it is easier to contribute if there is a steady stream of questions in an area you are an expert. I'm not using "core" in the sense of most important. I'm using "core" in the sense of most common, frequent, popular, recurring. I agree one tag isn't more important to the site than another, but some tags certainly are more prolific. – Erik Sep 27 '16 at 15:20
  • @Erik - how is that any meaningfully different on SFF from any other broad-topic SE site (especially StackOverflow itself, where there is "[java]" and there's niche small tags with literally 3 orders of magnitude less questions and views and consequently, votes). Your answer seems to imply it's an SFF specific thing. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 13 '17 at 2:08
  • @DVK-in-Florida I go to SO to solve a problem and occasionally answer a question. Generally I'm too slow to answer though even when I find a good question to answer. I interact with SFF very differently. In SFF and Worldbuilding. I browse from one interesting question to the next. I get sucked in by my love of the genre to these sites like others get sucked into TV Tropes. Due to this I end up drifting through related questions and periodically scanning active questions. Perhaps I'm unique in this but I suspect others interact with SFF differently than SO just like me. – Erik Jan 13 '17 at 17:01
  • @DVK-in-Florida also I feel like specialization is greater on SO than here. If I knew Forth I wouldn't be competing with Skeet for fastest gun in the west, but many power users here are well versed in Star Trek/Wars and Starship Troopers. That means we have broad scope where breadth of knowledge is fairly common too. I think that is pretty unique. I'm not complaining mind you. I love that about SFF and feel it makes us stronger and more interesting. – Erik Jan 13 '17 at 17:07
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    @Erik - I don't disagree with that assessment, but I'm not sure how that translates to cliquishness specific to SFF. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 13 '17 at 17:11
  • @DVK-in-Florida in my last two comments I was talking about how SFF is different than SO in regards to core tags not in regards to cliquishness. I'm not involved at all with SO beyond solving my problems and occasionally answering questions. From what I hear SO is much worse than SFF but I don't have any first hand knowledge. – Erik Jan 13 '17 at 17:21
  • @Erik - While the compliment about myself and J.K. Rowling is truly sweet, one compliment does not mean a person is necessarily part of the "in crowd". What I do and do not see, socially, on this site is not something I discuss very readily, so don't assume :) I really wanted to direct my question toward other users. That said, it's fair to say I alluded to some of my feelings about the site; however, they were in no way comprehensive. :) – Slytherincess Jan 14 '17 at 2:29
  • @Slytherincess I totally agree that one compliment doesn't translate to being part of the in crowd. I do feel like you have the respect of the community and are an influential presence for more reasons than that comment though. That being said maybe I'm wrong about you. To a degree in high school the jocks grouped me with the nerds because I was smart and the nerds grouped me with the jocks because I played sports. That contributed to me feeling like I wasn't fully part of either group because they interacted with me differently. So I understand my view of you may be flawed. – Erik Jan 14 '17 at 3:00
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    @Erik -- Thank you for your kind comments :) I actually really relate to what you wrote, for I was both an athlete and a honors student in high school, with school being a bit more important to me than athletics. I do know what it's like to feel as if one doesn't quite belong to a single group. I mean, I'm not naive enough to suggest that cliques don't exist. I just wonder where do we draw the line between being very familiar with certain users, and friendly with them, and cliquish (Which implies to me that a group is overly insular and rejecting of others by default. Does this make sense?)? – Slytherincess Jan 15 '17 at 2:22
  • @Erik - I also wanted to comment on your view of your own answers to meta questions as being unpopular. I have perceived my own answers to meta questions as being coolly received pretty frequently. This can be reflected in a lack of upvotes, negative comments, downvotes, or my answer being ignored totally. I wonder if I think differently than the majority of users, or if I'm misunderstanding the question. Now my meta questions are usually well received, so go figure. I've wondered if it's because I'm female, but I can only think of a single occurrence that would support this assumption. – Slytherincess Jan 15 '17 at 2:37
4

No

We are not very cliquish, generally speaking. On the whole, the site tends to make an effort to be welcoming to new users. If someone comes into chat asking questions, people usually will briefly engage with them and try to help them with their problems. And new users who post decent questions tend to get a lot of upvotes. Indeed, my experience has been one of getting more downvotes as an established user, perhaps evidence that people are (rightly) giving new users a little room to get to know the site, rather than letting the downvotes speak for themselves.

Perhaps more important, there does not appear to be much hostility toward new users in chat. Many fairly new users have been generally welcomed into chat. There are always exceptions, of course, and some people are actively welcoming than others, but on the whole new users don’t seem to be shouted down or even ignored. My experience in chat as a new user was, on the whole, positive. And many low-reputation users have become active chat users: steelerfan, Mannlymann, Fox-Chan, and so forth.

But…

Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics of our site (and to a certain extent the entire SE network) that can lead to insular behavior and in particular, a perception of cliquishness.

  • To participate in chat at all, one must have 20 reputation. To most of us, getting this much reputation must seem trivially easy—any user who has written a decent answer or two sometime in the last few days is liable to get that much in a single day. But for a user who is truly new to the SE network, even one who is willing to learn the rules and can write good posts, this might seem an insurmountable barrier. Thus very new users are excluded from chat, however temporarily. With that in mind, the fairly rigid format of the main site can feel quite stifling to users who also want to be able to discuss speculative fiction with other fans.

    We should not relax our standards and allow opinion-based questions or non-answers. To combat this feeling, though, we might consider reminding users more often about how easy it is to get enough reputation to chat, and not only when they post an off-topic question.

  • If a user with enough reputation to chat asks an sci-fi related question in chat (one that might be off-topic on the main site), users will usually try to help. But often this is only for a brief while before they go back to whatever conversation was interrupted: often a conversation that the new user cannot follow without reading three pages of transcripts. Clearly, no one should feel obligated to interrupt every conversation to welcome a new chat user; nonetheless, when someone comes to chat with a question that has been declared off-topic on the main site, and then they still cannot get an answer in chat because established users are all talking among themselves, it can lead to a perception of exclusivity.

  • New users tend to be intimidated by more experienced users. In particular, for a user coming in without a broad knowledge of the most popular topics, it can be fairly difficult to write an answer good enough to compete with an established user who knows the answer from the get-go, and who can write a well-formatted and comprehensive answer before the new user has finished typing theirs.

    To improve this experience, we should offer constructive criticism, ideally framed in the form of questions, to help improve the factual details of answers. If we know why an answer is flawed or incorrect, we should explain where correct information can be found. We should, of course, avoid simply criticizing a post.

    And we should be fairly liberal when it comes to upvoting questions and answers by new users: if a new user writes a decent answer, it’s probably worth spending an upvote. It will encourage them, and get them closer to being able to participate in chat. Bad answers, of course, should be downvoted as usual, but we should also be willing to politely explain the problems with a post, and. when possible, offer suggestions for correcting them. It could also be helpful to note which bad posts we downvoted, and if the users take the suggestions of the critics to heart and turn the answer into a decent one, reverse those downvotes or even upvote. That way people will be rewarded for learning the rules.

  • Finally, it does sometimes happen that new users who write bad questions or answers are subject to mockery. It does not happen often, in my view, but it does happen. If a user is attempting to answer questions, and not (for example) posting spam or nonsensical “answers,” this should absolutely be avoided, especially in comments, where the user will certainly see such criticism: anyone who is trying to post on-topic questions or answers has the potential to become a valued user, and should receive constructive criticism, not insults.

  • 1
    So no, but yes? – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 22:47
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    @Valorum - No, in that we don’t have cliques, on the whole, and general are not hostile to new users. Yes, in that there are things that can make it look like we have cliques, as well as occasional behavior that can turn people off. The answer was never going to be clear-cut: even the best forum is going to have mores that new users don’t know about, and even the worst cliques have some room for mobility. – Adamant Sep 24 '16 at 22:48
  • Hmm. If you wander into the chatroom now, you'll find the same half-dozen high-rep SFF users (as usual) chatting about this meta along with two moderators from another stack who've spent much of the last two hours bitching about a comment I made and trying to gain support for flagging and removing said comments because they didn't like them. That behaviour seems quite "cliquish" and "exclusionary" to me. – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 22:56
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    @Valorum - Then why does your answer seem to indicate that there’s not a problem? – Adamant Sep 24 '16 at 22:57
  • Oh, I think there's a problem, but it's not on the main site. It's in chat. Luckily we're far less hostile to new users than on other stacks though, so it's not nearly as pronounced a problem. – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 22:58
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    @Adamant- That chat is mainly filled with high reputation users is not, in my view, so much because of the presence of a clique that actively excludes people, but (a) all the other factors I mentioned that turn people off from chatting, and (b) insufficient advertising of chat. It’s less active exclusion, and more that the familiarity of the regular users tends to turn off new users. – Adamant Sep 24 '16 at 23:03
  • @Adamant - I agree that for the most part, the exclusion happens because new users simply feel intimidated or not part of the "in joke". – Valorum Sep 24 '16 at 23:33
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    Thanks for the thoughtful answer! +1 I especially like your encouragement of explaining downvotes to new users (I also think it's important to explain duplicates to new users, as the duplicate system can be easily misunderstood). Everyone is different, but I've always made it my practice to explain why I'm doing a VTC, as well. I just think communication is key, and it's a way to help new users feel more included. At least that's the goal anyway. :) – Slytherincess Sep 25 '16 at 11:08
  • @slytherincess - I mostly explain my down votes. That being said, that's a short route to an argument with some users. – Valorum Sep 25 '16 at 13:03
  • @Valorum -- Agreed. I just have to actively choose not to engage, which is hard because by nature I tend to want to have the last word :P – Slytherincess Sep 25 '16 at 14:18
  • This comment is posted just so @Slytherincess does not have the last world. </crawling back under my bridge> – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 29 '16 at 17:22
  • @DVK-in-exile - MeepMeep! <*Zooms*> – Slytherincess Oct 6 '16 at 23:51
4

I agree with a lot of what has already been said, but I want to take a bit of a different spin on it...

I still consider myself a new user (less than a year on the site at the time of this posting), and I have experienced many of the situations that DVK, Kevin, and Adamant describe in their answers.

My personal experience was pretty much what was described, 1) having trouble gaining my first couple reputation points by having questions closed a duplicates, 2) trying to provide answers but seeing I was "out gunned" by other users bigger brains or Google-fu skills, 3) stopping by chat and being scared to make my first post.

What I realized with all three issues was that determination and not taking it personally was the key. I eventually asked some question and gave some answers which gave me the confidence to finally start chatting. I was quickly welcomed and have new friends in short order.


Getting back to root of why this question was asked (Note I am not singling out the users in the exchange, just using it as the catalyst).:

Valorum - "Let the downvotes be your guide. What you're suggesting is not 'nice' and we're all about 'be nice' here."

ATB - "I dispute that. Given the cliquey nature of the site"

Q1: Why does the user feel that the site is cliquey?

my A: The user has most likely experienced a negative action, be it down votes, question closure, or discouraging comments by a group of users or a consistent select few .

Q2: Was the negative action warranted?

my A2: This could have a lot more variance, but from my experience, the OP is usually the one who starts the confrontation. People react differently negative feedback, some take it very personally. New users must be guided in the direction that the it is not a personal thing, although you can lead a horse to water but you can not make it drink... The SE wide "Be Nice" policy is pretty straightforward and simple, and those who do not follow it are dealt with accordingly on matter their "status" within the site.

Q3: Could the "clique" be correct?

my A: It may be a matter that you are just going against the opinion of the majority of users. If you hold the dissenting opinion in a discussion it easy to think that you are being ganged up on. That however, does not make that group a clique, it means they are disagreeing with you on that topic. You may find common ground on another topic or you may not. You may also find that "the clique" disagree with itself on other issues.


To tie it all back together and reiterate what has been said... We are not cliquey, but it can SEEM that way...

You must always remember this as well, "You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time; however you cannot please all the people all the time!

2

No, but yes. But mostly no.

  • New users aren’t unfairly targeted for being new, in my experience. There is a learning curve, and the newer you are, the more likely it is that there will be problems with your posts. This is natural, inevitable, and part of the learning process.

  • There aren’t distinct cliques of mutually hostile users. Obviously, we’re all human, so I won’t like everyone, and not everyone will like me. User A might despise User B, and vice versa. Again, this is impossible to avoid. But User A and User B hating each other isn’t cliquishness, unless each of them attract a circle of allies who are similarly hostile or aloof to one another. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened here - we have some people who don’t get along, but we certainly haven’t devolved into warring Lord of the Flies-like factions.

  • The “regulars” in Mos have idiosyncratic relationships, inside jokes, and a well established repartee. This can leave new users feeling a bit left out at first, but once again, this is inevitable. People who already know each other share in a dialogue that has been going on for some time, and a newcomer will take a while to understand the context of that dialogue. But I’ve never seen anyone attempt to keep the newbies in the dark. If someone enters chat for the first time, sees people talking about Toad Spit or time traveling robots, and asks “What’s the deal with that?”, the regulars will quickly explain. The new guy might be taken aback when I tell Slytherincess that her face smells, but when she replies with a picture of a crying baby, he’ll probably figure out that we’re friends teasing each other, not jerks in the middle of a fight.

    Wad made me cry and my face is not smelly!!!!

There is a loosely defined and constantly fluctuating group of regulars in Mos, and in a sense, we could be called a clique, but it certainly isn’t an exclusive club. To become a “member”, all one has to do is show up and chat on a frequent basis. That’s it. Come in and talk, and pretty soon, you’ll be one of us, whether you like it or not.

  • Established users are disproportionately active on Meta, but - you guessed it - this is another inevitability. Most people won’t even know Meta exists until someone tells them about it. Furthermore, there are basically only two reasons people use Meta: 1. They have an issue with something related to them personally - a downvote, a question closure, or an answer being deleted. 2. They are so familiar with the main site that they’ve started to take an interest in operational issues regarding tags, policies, or other minutiae. I don’t see how you could call Meta cliquish, because it is pretty boring and no one comes here to interact with one another; but even if you do consider it a clique, it is an even more open clique than Mos. Want in? All you have to do is start posting.

  • Some people may take the OP’s identity into account when voting on questions and answers, and established users might benefit unfairly from their familiarity to the other users, but I don’t think it happens often enough to be a serious issue. When a well-known, high rep user gets a billion upvotes, I think it has more to do with their experience and knowledge (and the SF&F obsession that brought them here in the first place, then allowed them to answer so many questions so well) than their popularity. But here, I can add a personal anecdote: I joined the site a year and a half ago, and I got blasted on one of my first questions (and rightly so, because it was a rant). I knew nothing about Star Trek, Doctor Who, or Harry Potter, and I had never read a word of Tolkien. Despite this, once I understood what a good answer entailed here, I started racking up rep and establishing myself. Within 4 months, I had over 10,000 rep, based almost exclusively on the Star Wars films and Tolkien. Becoming a chat regular took even less time. Becoming a so-called “power user” takes a bit of work, but anyone can do it - and do it pretty quickly - if they put in the time and energy.

To the extent that cliques exist on SF&F, they are natural, inevitable, benign, and open. Establishing oneself is a matter of putting in the time to get to know people, and letting them get to know you. “Popularity” is dependent solely upon being friendly and allowing for a degree of familiarity to naturally develop - it isn’t about whether you are deemed “cool” or whatever - it is about being nice and interacting with people.

In other words, if you’re here, and you do stuff, and you talk to people, and you are nice to other users, you’re already a part of whatever “in-crowd” we have.

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