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Something that I've been thinking about: what should be considered a standard? With the introduction of the tag, it is very important that we reach a clear understanding about this.

The site is driven by the community, which means that literally anyone can make suggestions and propose standards. The good thing is there are already standards created by the broader community at http://meta.stackoverflow.com and http://meta.stackexchange.com. If we're in doubt about something, we can assume that by default we inherit the existing rules and standards.

But at what point can something we ourselves propose be considered a standard in our community? What should be the process for that, given that the community is still growing and there aren't that many active Meta members?

Example

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that someone creates a Meta question named "Formatting of config file names", with the following text:

I think it's a good idea to mark config file names with a distinct formatting style. It would be great to agree on using the same style everywhere. Should it be bold, italic, code, or something else?

Another user comes along and leaves an answer:

I find that the best way is to use bold formatting: Sitecore.Analytics.config.

The answer may also go on to explain why this should be considered the best practice.

The answer gets 2 or 3 upvotes, no one adds other answers, the author marks the answer as accepted.

Can this be considered a standard now? If yes, then why? Is it because of the lack of opposing view points? Or because there are some upvotes?

A more important question is, can this standard now be enforced? If a user on http://sitecore.stackexchange.com likes to use other formatting for config file names, should other users override the author's preferred formatting and point out there's a standard in place?

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I think we should be careful when introducing and enforcing "standards".

It will introduce a steep learning curve for new users to get familiar with the standards of the community, before being able to contribute (and a significant workload for existing users to stay updated on new and changed standards).

Also, it will introduce a comprehensive task for the community, to enforce the standards on new posts, as well as update existing posts when new standards are introduced.

In my opinion, standard conventions in a community should be held at an absolute minimum, as long as the questions and answers are clear and understandable.

Discussions about formatting question and answers, e.g. about syntax-highlighting or not-syntax-highlighting, or how to annotate config files (I know this was just an example) are not significant in regards of creating a good QA-website.

Having a standard for when to use version tags etc. makes sense, since (in)correct tagging can have crucial impact for the understanding of a question.

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    Without discussing the other content of your answer; I'd like to clear up an apparent misunderstanding about "Moderators". It is not the Moderators job to enforce standards, edit posts to these standards, ensure tagging is consistent - this is entirely a community effort. Moderators are there to respond to flagged questions and comments "Flag for moderation" - where the tools given are not sufficient to resolve a conflict. Nothing more. Don't expect Moderators to be the site keepers - that's exactly what Stack Exchange is NOT supposed to be. – Mark Cassidy Oct 21 '16 at 8:00
  • I am sorry for that misunderstanding, I have adjusted my answer accordingly. – Kasper Gadensgaard Oct 21 '16 at 8:17
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First of; I'm not necessarily sure standards is the correct label for this tag. @Richard Seal took initiative for it, and I just proceeded to tag up all the questions here on Meta that dealt with the same types of issues - now we at least have a common denominator on them.

Quite possibly, the tag should then be renamed to community-guidelines - but that's something we can discuss and deal with later.

Personally; I believe we should have as few standards as possible, but not so few that our site content begins to suffer for it. To take your examples; I don't think it's practical or even viable to try and cook up a standard for how config files should be marked up. While I see the appeal of the idea, I don't think the community would "enforce" it (by conducting community edits) and people can certainly not "lean back" and expect this to be the job of Moderators (as mentioned in my comment on @Kasper Gadensgaard's post).

What we should have, is community driven discussions around key areas. Which is what we're doing. Like @Richard Seal's "What makes a good question?" and so on - to act as general direction indicators. It provides guidance for the community when conducting edits - An Edit must always leave the post better than we found it - and these posts provide examples and guidelines on what we - as a community - consider "better".

These posts then become points of reference. In case of say a dispute over an edit; the posts can be linked to and hopefully everything sorts itself out. If not, that's what the "Flag for moderation" is for. Moderators are trusted by the community to interpret the intent of these guidelines and make a judgement call when called for.

I think this sums up, roughly, how I see all this.

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  • Thanks a lot for the thoughtful reply! I believe we are on the same page about this. community-guidelines would definitely be better than standards. So is my understanding correct that it's no one's intention to introduce hard rules that must be followed? Everything will hopefully be down to common sense, and conflicts will be resolved via discussion between equals. Moderators will only interfere in extreme cases. – Dmytro Shevchenko Oct 21 '16 at 8:36
  • Moderators are required to "clear flags". Which means responding to anything that gets flagged for moderator attention. Our community guidelines act as a directional flag as to how new content (in particular) should be reviewed - so we can guide new users on our guidelines - but also serve as a point of reference for later community edits. And as we've seen - community edits can become points of dispute which eventually could end up being flagged. I would not say something so specific as "in extreme cases" - moderators clear flags. – Mark Cassidy Oct 21 '16 at 8:39

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