It is unclear to me and others how we determine 'official' site policy.

We have a lot of questions and answers surrounding our site policy here on meta. Some have a lot of views, some have a lot of votes.

But then we also see on main that what looks like a violation of the advice given in the help-centre. Violations that are tolerated or accepted. And posts on main or voting, commenting behaviour from users that are not knowing, ignoring or indeed plainly violating what looks on meta like 'being stated site policy'.

One might argue that what we see on main is emergent group consensus.

But that is not just an advantage in terms of leeway and flexibility.

It is too indirect and open to interpretation. It makes the rules implicit, invisible and in effect un-understandable for all users, but especially new ones.


How do we determine what our site policy is? How do we propose changes and accept or reject them? That is: How do we reach a consensus? And how do we make that consensus visible and its implications understandable for users?

The related question How is consensus determined on Meta sites? on network wide Meta:SE.

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    Related question How is consensus determined on Meta sites? on Meta:SE. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 12:16
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    To quote the old dish soap commercial, "You're soaking in it."
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 13:20
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    Have you seen the section about customisable content for the new ask page (which is now live across the network)? "... Once a consensus is reached ...". smh Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


OK, this is something that is really important for the future of the site, and something that we should really have a policy on. Since nobody else seems to want to take the plunge, here is my suggestion to get things rolling.

Note, as usual, that this is just my opinion and not the view of the moderation team, so please ignore any mod diamond you may see next to my name.

  1. Questions on Meta that propose a change to site policy should be limited to a single specific aspect of that policy. If you want to address multiple issues, ask multiple questions.

  2. The question should state the existing policy if there is one and why the proposer thinks we need to change it. Alternatively, the question should explain why the proposer thinks we need a policy if there isn't already one in place. The proposed new policy should be posted as an answer.

  3. Questions proposing a change to site policy will be tagged by moderators to ensure that they are visible from the main site.

  4. Questions will remain open for answers for a period of 14 days. After that they will be locked by moderators.

  5. For a change to be accepted it must receive a majority of net votes cast. If there is only one answer with a net-positive score after the post is locked, that will become the new site policy and be added to our FAQ. Answers with net-negative scores will not be counted.

  6. Once a question is locked, if the change has been accepted, moderators will update our FAQ to reflect the new policy.

For example, if there are 3 answers with net-positive scores, an answer must receive more than half of the sum of the net positive scores for the proposed change in that answer to become site policy.

  • Unsure about 2: often hear advice that Q&A format dictates (ao) option 2; 4: after being finalised (featured) open for 14 days? And why & how 'locked' (no more voting (locking seems to have changed recently?) 5: does this solve participation ratio; how does math work for lots of As? Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 10:38
  • @LаngLаngС The point of 2 is that people should vote on the new policy. The question should explain why a change is needed, the answers propose what that change should be. As part of our FAQ & site policies, we (presumably) don't want further answers added to the post. So it needs to be locked. No, it won't solve participation, but being featured should at least keep people informed. After that, participation is a choice. More options just means less chance of getting one with a clear majority, but if there's no clear majority then clearly we don't have consensus anyway! Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 10:58
  • I don't like the part where we delete the other answers. Honestly "we thought about that and decided not to because x,y,z" is the most common answer to most meta questions after a while. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:22
  • @KateGregory My thinking was that if we are to have clear FAQ for new users to understand our expectations we should delete all but the (new) accepted site policy when it becomes part of our FAQ. As now, deleted answers would remain visible to those with sufficient rep. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:33
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    I disagree. Leave the historical question by which one particular policy (eg citations, or time ranges) was settled as a complete entity. Write a separate FAQ that lays out the rules. If someone takes issue with policy and says "we should x instead", they can be referred to all the arguments laid out in the question that set the policy including why x isn't a good idea. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:41
  • @KateGregory Fair point.. Is that better? Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:55
  • yes it is! thanks! Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 17:18

There’s nothing wrong with emergent or common rules. Code Napoleon and universal enforcement is a liberal fantasy of an absolute state: not a successful way to promote high quality historical questions and answers not put elsewhere.

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    As much as I value your input & agree on 'emergent=OK': how do we document this for all to re-trace the steps and comply or dissent? (~Easily, not exegetically) Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 2:08
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    Emergent rules can be fine, depending on context. However, given the general advice to SE moderators about when to close posts, I would prefer something more explicit. Future moderators on History:SE may choose to follow that guidance more closely, and not take quite such a light-touch approach as we currently try to do. Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 20:25
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    This is an important point. The stuff I've found that makes for successful site policy tends not be "Let's do it this way..." so much as it is "I've analyzed our past group behavior, and it looks like this is how we do things." Descriptive beats prescriptive.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 5:09
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    @T.E.D. Maybe. But where is 'your analysis' of anything like this viewable for others? And why not combine that step with the first? I thought that's what I did try here: Document 'what looks to be it', then discuss whether it is really desirable or should change. I agree with Sam that 'emergent is not wrong', but 'hidden' and arcane is wrong. Commented Jan 29, 2020 at 17:38
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    Agreed. However I believe a modest structure of statue law is an essential underpinning of a workable common law. Just where one draws the line is of course the realm of politics. Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 9:45

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