Topics that start with "Why"


Apologies to @sryze for using their topic as an example …

I try to avoid topics like these, because topics with titles that begin with “Why” are rarely constructive. They’re essentially the forum version of “When did you stop beating your wife?” It starts the conversation off with a conclusion, in this case that Atom is “so slow”, and often puts anyone who replies to it on the defensive.

Now, I don’t feel like @sryze was doing this because they actually concentrated on a specific performance scenario, startup time, which is something that people can have a constructive conversation about. But there are other examples scattered throughout the forum and whether or not the original poster had good intentions … the inflammatory topic title often invites non-constructive replies from both sides of an opinion. Even if the topic is guided back to being constructive and eventually runs its natural course, unless it is closed it is often resurrected later by someone with a bone to pick and the cycle begins all over again.

And I feel like even the more subtle titles like Why CoffeeScript? are examples of a style of writing that one of my early bosses and mentors called “the silent ‘idiot’” (though in more colorful terms). She said that I needed to curb my tendency to write emails that “had a silent ‘idiot’ after every period” :laughing:

I’ve thought about this a lot over the last couple days and I’m wondering what other people think. Should we have a policy about inflammatory titles of this form, citing the Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree section of the FAQ? Or is it an issue that just comes from people having strong opinions and having discussions around those opinions and can’t be avoided … only managed?

cc @codinghorror

Why are help docs written for Mac users only?
What can we do to improve autocomplete?

I appreciate the risk that you’re describing. Of topics sliding into non-constructive venting.
And I have definitely seen a few comments and maybe a topic or two that are fishing for emotional responses.

You will have more experience with this than I do, but my impression is that, on here, even those topics tend to largely remain calm and conversational.

What you’re probably trying to prevent, is the kind of emotional outbursts that do nothing to add or at least invite constructive discussion material. But I haven’t really seen that here - say, apart from a few sarcastic remarks on occasion. And as you mention, in most cases the topic is indeed brought back from the brink of insanity by the majority of “good” members (or those who aren’t having a bad day).

So, I might be inappropriately lenient, not being the one feeling the moderator burden on my shoulders.
But I don’t think I have seen anything in danger of derailing anywhere, yet.


Just to add:
There’s always the question what to do with the more disruptive or unpleasant elements in any group.
On forums, what tends to work well is the “ignore the troll” advice.
And if the behavior isn’t quite trolling, but still somewhat clouding the mood of the forum, a subtle and private hint is often very effective.

Otherwise, have faith in your community :wink:


I don’t think a title alone is enough to judge intent.

I’d look at the content of the first post – is this a reasonable discussion willing to consider pros and cons? Is it rant-y? Is it ultimately constructive?

And then, what happened after that? What kind of response did this topic inspire? Are the first 5 replies angry rants, or reasonable people talking reasonably?


I’m tired of “The lack of feature X is the one reason I’m staying with ST” which is also not constructive.

IMHO it is a very passive-aggressive way of saying “Put this damn feature in or you will lose me as a customer”. It’s narcissistic. It’s as if he/she thinks everyone will stop what they are doing and implement the feature to not lose this VIP user.

It’s also usually a lie constructed to get leverage. The odds of exactly one feature tipping the balance are low.


I think it’s a good idea to be a little aggressive about keeping things constructive. I imagine the kind of posts you have in mind drift very easily into bikeshedding given how broad their initial questions are, which might mean that these threads are undesirable even when they’re not obviously inflammatory.

Just focusing on keeping things constructive could mean that you get to sidestep the tough question of what’s inflammatory and what’s not, since I bet there will be a ton of posts that fall into that “not inflammatory, but not exactly friendly either” category.

I could see myself posting something like “Why does X do Y?” if I were really stumped by something, so I’m not sure about a general warning against “Why …” topics.

Edit - I meant to post this a couple days ago but I guess I flubbed the submit button. I’ll agree too that sometimes I think people forget this is still beta software, and thus have unrealistic demands if it.