I really, really (really) don't want to be personal, be sure this question is in general.

About the question

Occasionally, you run into answers where the poster suggests to discuss further via email, Face-book or whatever channel outside AU. It seems a "nice" thing to do. OP, especially a newcomer, would not likely refuse the "personal" attention.
What really happens is that OP is isolated from community input. Possible misinformation is not corrected by a second opinion, to mention something, and even if a working solution is produced, it is of no value to the site.

An example

In this particular (now deleted) case, the answer is accompanied by a series of gloomy comments in which the answerer seems to fight with an imaginary enemy, which in itself creates a questionable impression (towards a new user!) of what we're doing here.

Worse in my opinion is that the poster openly asks OP to "neutralize" the downvote, done by, no doubt, evil people (not me btw, didn't even read the answer):

"Didn't I just explain my answers get downvoted for explaining things in plain english?".

Moreover, OP is dragged into an imaginary war that is not his:
"my annoyance at the cliquey nature of the users of this site whose disdain of people like you is so fierce that they downvote people like me for trying to help. Eventually I will get so fed up about this that I will be contacting the site operators and suggesting they target this sort of bigotry".

The absolute worst, and the main point of my question, is the final attempt to lead OP away from the site into a private session elsewhere. I really think this is harmfull. If someone has a problem on the current behaviour on this site, there is META where things can be discussed in the open. Isolating someone into his or her personal atmosphere is on the contrary of what we're trying to do here.

Why adding the context of this specific example?

In this case, the suggestion to step outside the scope of AU is done as a final step in a questionable atmosphere. It is relevant in the discussion, since the answer to the question may not be the same in other situations, and driven by other intentions. If so, what would be the conditions that make a step into private spaces acceptable?

  • 3
    As far as the - here is my Facebook - comment, I would flag it, the same as if they posted email.
    – Mateo
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 12:54
  • 1
    People are people (youtube.com/watch?v=ErnMC7xokQ8) and some people rub other people the wrong way... :(
    – Fabby
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 11:28
  • 2
    LOL FaceBook as "Private" space. LOL
    – j0h
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 6:40
  • After a certain number of comments the site automatically suggests moving to chat. The chat won't be available forever either. What happened in emails could easily last for longer than the chat. I find it to be a larger problem that I can't come back and read a chat, which I took part in myself.
    – kasperd
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 21:30
  • @kasperd The idea of this site is that the work done in question+answer is a.) improved/checked by the community b.) available to the community. Things can be discussed in chat or in comments, but that should have a temporary function, processing the information and insights. The end result belongs in the answer+question. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 22:26
  • @JacobVlijm Sometimes the best way to understand the final result is by understanding the process which lead to that result. For that reason if somebody find a question or answer to be unclear, then reading the revision history and discussion around it may be the best way to get rid of the confusion.
    – kasperd
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 0:18
  • @kasperd I really don't see why a resume would not make things clear, but even then, you shouldn't think of AU as a private help desk. Essential is that useful results are available to the community. Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 7:04

2 Answers 2


If there's an answer, keep it on site. If you need to discuss something, taking it to chat or off-site is fine, but the end result should wind up on site. Dropping your email or something is frowned upon generally, but reducing noise to actually get at a problem source is good. So, it's mixed bag, and as far as I am aware - there isn't a one fits all answer for this question.

  • In some cases where you know the end-user isn't all that up-to-speed but willing enough, I sometimes wish I could just remote control them! ;-) Failing that, I use the following system: use comments, and ask the OP to delete his/her comments after incorporating them into the question and deleting mine myself into a (partial) answer as having a chat session with a rep 1 user is (wisely) not allowed on the site. (If you incorporate this into your answer and drop me a note @Fabby, I'll delete my comment)
    – Fabby
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 11:10
  • 2
    Comments can really run on though, and there's nothing wrong with saying - Hey, why don't you hop on the Ubuntu IRC channel on xyz server so we can talk about this - without blowing up the comments. Grant I'ld only do that if I KNEW it wasn't going to be a 3 comment exchange. If it was going to go on and on - live chat is just easier. Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 23:13
  • Yes, but extended chat is mostly needed with Rep 1 users (who I, with my lowly reputation, cannot invite into chat...)
    – Fabby
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 23:17
  • 1
    There is a huge problem with taking things offsite. It means that we lack the tools to deal with the problem. Chat exists to give us those tools, and preventing people from inviting newbies to chat just serves to say "we don't want to help newbies." Sure, letting them have direct access might lead to spam, and so you'd want it to be invitation only, by people with a certain score. But there's no way someone like Fabby with over 2000 rep should be so limited. He has shown himself to be pretty dedicated. I think veterans overestimate how hard it is to get rep once an SE is established.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 11:07
  • "Isolating someone into his or her personal atmosphere is on the contrary of what we're trying to do here." OP has well said it. As a community, this specific behaviour should be discouraged, if nothing else.
    – Abhimanyu
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 12:38
  • 1
    My suggestion for off-site wasn't isolation. IRC servers are public, recorded, and historically searchable. Taking someone to #Ubuntu on freenode wouldn't be isolationist at all. Taking it to gchat or an email exchange would be different. So, just don't read too much in to my answer. Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 16:10
  • I generally agree all answers should be public and on-site. It simply has value for others, and leverages the "many eyeballs" to get to the right answer, faster. The only exception is when I need to provide commercial or "salesy" answers... I do not think those belong here, and the discussion may involve Canonical' (or the customer's) private info.
    – 0xF2
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 13:41

This is more a comment, but it is too long so I put it as an answer:

The question itself is good, but why are you elaborating so much on that specific answer? It seems really passive-aggressive to me. It seems like there is a completely different conflict going on. I agree with you that his behaviour can hurt the community, but this has nothing to do with the "private spaces" debate. So I would advise two things:

  1. Remove the elaboration about the parts that have nothing to do with the "private spaces" debate from your question. Maybe put them in another question about leaking meta discussions to the main site.

  2. Advise the user to keep meta discussions in meta. Advise him to remove the meta parts from his answer.

    Conflicts like this are bound to get worse if not addressed properly, and can hurt the community a lot...

  • 2
    Again, I don't mean to be personal; there is no conflict going on. Any example would include the risk of being taken personally. The behaviour you mention is in the extension of, and strengthening, the effect of the main point of the question. First creating the image of "an enemy", then offering a personal approach outside AU is on topic in this case, and it makes clear (to discuss) in what kind of situations or driven by what intentions a step outside "the open" is acceptable or not. I want to stress that this behaviour is what I want to bring into discussion, not the person. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 18:18
  • With "conflict" I was referring to the real or imaginary war the user is fighting. You do have a point. The reason for going private can be important in this discussion. However, I still think the focus of your question is too much on the specific behavior of the user. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 19:49
  • Edited my question for clarification. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 21:47
  • "It seems rather passive aggressive to me." I don't think this communicates what you meant to communicate. It effectively accuses the OP of wrongdoing, of sneakily making a question about one thing rather than the other. It seems like your answer would work just as well if you simply deleted that sentence, and thus the accusation. Even if he did include two different questions in one, I think we do well to assume good faith and assume it is accidental. Not to make you walk on eggshells or anything. Just a suggestion.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 11:20

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