I asked a question (What is between the sectors of floppy disks?) and received a few answers, one excellent one from someone whose English is not perfect. Someone edited the answer correcting many spelling mistakes. Then the answerer made a few minor changes of their own. There were still some grammatic and spelling issues, so I fixed them myself, and at the same time removed a section, that in my opinion, added nothing to the answer and was using condescending language. I feel that the answer was hugely improved by removing that block of text. I stated explicitly in my edit comment that I had removed that block because of its condescending language.

I don't have enough rep for my edits to be applied immediately, so it went into the review queue. The reviewer approved the edit and I could see that they have in the past improved edits before approving them. My edit was approved as-is.

However, the answerer has since edited their answer again, thanked me for my changes in the edit comment, and restored the section I removed, stating I "deleted too much". I quite deliberately deleted that block because it added no facts to the answer, just repeated what had already been stated in a factual manner but this time in a condescending way.

I don't believe condescending language has a place on Stack Exchange. I'm not personally offended by it, it's just that it's low quality. I've left a comment praising the answer in general and stating that removing that text improves the answer. I can't tell if the answerer has read my comment or not, but they were very active initially, responding quickly to edits.

I don't want to participate in an edit war, just help keep the quality up. If I saw that sort of language in an answer to someone else's question (questioning their behaviour/thinking, implying that's it's wrong to ask questions), I would consider it out of place there too.

What can be done to keep both of us happy?


  • The NEW new "Be Nice" Policy ("Code of Conduct") — Updated with your feedback

    Some people felt it [the old "Be Nice" policy] didn't speak clearly enough to arrogance or condescending language (that some might argue wasn't technically "rude")

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    1. Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you'd talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you. If you don't have time to say something politely, just leave it for someone who does.
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    1. It clear that the official policy is intended to guard against condescending language, although the word "condescending" does not appear in the "Be Nice" policy. It is covered by "rudeness" and "inappropriate". It's also clear that the answer in its current form is condescending
    2. Editing answers to improve them is actively encouraged, and this is clearly stated in many different places
    3. Once posted, the author doesn't "own" the content

So, in line with the policies of this site and all Stack Exchange sites, I edited the answer to remove the condescending language without affecting the factual content at all, thus improving it. I was aware that the answerer might object but that is not a strong enough reason for leaving condescending language in. The edit was reviewed impartially by a third user who determined that my edit did indeed improve the answer. My opinion and the opinion of the answerer don't matter; it's the site policy that determines what is acceptable and what isn't.

  • The tone comes off as a bit abrasive to me, but it can be pretty easy to misjudge that in text. Maybe see if you can talk with the person in question in chat and find out if its just a miscommunication? A little virtual "face to face" is probably more likely to resolve things than sending messages through edit comments, and its always a good idea to see if you can resolve these things on your own before asking for moderation (unless the person is being belligerent, blatantly offensive, etc).
    – mnem
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 5:11
  • @mnem How do you chat to someone? I don't see any option in their profile for doing so.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 6:49
  • 1
    On the general question of chatting: We have a chat room: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/38597/the-bbs, you can ping them from there. Alternatively, above 100 rep you can create a temporary chat room and invite them to it (1000 rep to make the room private).
    – Chenmunka Mod
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 7:33

3 Answers 3


Firstly, I approved your edit that included the removal of the controversial block of text. I did consider using the Improve Edit option to leave some or all of that block in the answer. On balance, I agreed that it didn't add to the answer.

Also, I was well aware that the original poster could reintroduce the block or roll it back if they objected to its removal. Furthermore, since April, the original poster of a question or answer can override any suggested edit (once only). I made a mental note to check if the text reappeared.

While, as mentioned above, I don't believe the bulk of that section adds to the answer, I feel it doesn't detract from it enough to forcibly delete it.
However, I feel some of the wording in that block could be improved. The text you describe as condescending could be worded better - or removed. It isn't helpful as it stands. None of the 3,500-odd viewers of the post have flagged the text for any reason, so I have left it be - at least while this discussion continues.

You have offered to chat to the OP and you have raised it here. They are the ways to try to keep you both - and the whole community - happy.

  • 2
    I hope that was a mental note, not a mental not let alone a mental knot.
    – user
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 14:47
  • This seems incredibly balanced and helpful, being mindful of the feelings and intents of both parties. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 20:32

What can be done to keep both of us happy?

Kiss and make up maybe? Tweak the language of the answer slightly to make it less abrasive. e.g.

That is based on a false assumption i.e. that there are byte "cells" on a floppy disk.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the general structure. As the author of the answer states, this is a Q and A site. We are here to answer questions, not to write a new Wikipedia.

The author adopts a style that I use frequently, which is to quote parts from the question and answer them directly, and then expand on the answer in more general terms. I don't see anything particularly wrong with this, even if it means you are repeating some information.

  • Did you have a look at the specific edit in question?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 10:43
  • @CJDennis Of course I did.
    – JeremyP
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 10:57
  • Nowhere does my question assume that there are "cells" on a floppy. Other people have come to that conclusion (i.e. that that was what I was thinking) by themselves. It would be incorrect to say it's a false assumption (i.e. a false assumption itself).
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:22
  • 1
    What you did say implied that you thought the surface of a floppy was divided up into byte sized chunks (aka "cell"). You wrote "... assuming a single gap byte and a single 00 sync byte ..." which says to me that it is exactly how you imagined the surface of a disk to be organised. People can hardly be blamed for correcting that assumption, although, I agree the answer given could have been worded better.
    – JeremyP
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:30

(a. Took me some time to find this, as the title didn't relate to me)

(b. tl;dr - Short answer to your question here at the end)

First off all, I'm very thankful to you (@CJ Dennis) and several other for all the work on improving spelling and grammar of my posts, as I'm neither native English nor careful enough when typing (blaming it on my lousy tablet keyboard is just a way to avoid responsibility).

Nonetheless I do think before writing (and posting) so sections are there for a reason. And the line between improving grammar and changing meaning is a blurry one.

I feel that Stack Exchange is about answering questions other people have. Not giving a lecture or editing Wikipedia. If I want to do this, I'd spend more time over there. Answering a question means to me going thru whatever has been asked and putting my reply into context. This is reflected by a style to quote separate issues and replying to each, which is BTW a good way too keep third party readers focused. Long texts without referring to the questions will lead to a lesser understanding of why and about an issue.

I also try to answer in a rather informal, conversational style, as it's not a lecture from above, but a reply on peer level. Directly answering the poster of the question(s) also may enhance readability by a third party by not being dry as toast.

I would feel that you, as someone interested in the (English) language as it seems, do understand that human language isn't always simple and logic but includes a lot of redundancy to work properly.

Now, for the answer in question, you (@CJ Dennnis) did not only delete citations of questions of the OP, but also rather relevant answers.

The first part is a classic example of RTFM. He already points to a well written piece about floppy formatting, just to turn around to request other people to spend time for him to answer what already has been said. Sure, that part could have been dropped, although I do not believe that ignoring that is the right way.

But more important, it goes along with the second citation, which points out a common misunderstanding about magnetic media 'young' folks often show. Coming from a world where drivers present nice byte sized views and 'living' in a programming world where everything is handled and properly stored in discrete byte wide cells, they often assume that such cells must also be a property of tapes and disks. I've come across this more than just once, and the question poster seems to have fallen for the same folly.

I did on purpose choose a more direct address to make sure it gets delivered instead of being buried under a cartload of words.

I could think of some fine tuning, but that would still stay true to the stylistic expression used. But when your editing came, I stayed away from further improving the post, as I do not want to fuel an edit war with several concurring versions. Even though some changes are needed for readability.

Now for the editing process you started. I can only thank you again for your work on spelling and grammar, as it's much appreciated. You also inserted some words I wouldn't have used, but I believe that my command of the English language may still need improvement. Your deletion of the two paragraphs made me think about their necessity, but as described before, I still see them as needed part in relation to the question(s) asked. Therefore I accepted your edit and reinserted that part (it was less effort that way than the edit option in accepting).

What's not appreciated is that you tried to force your changes onto my answer afterwards. Again and again. Even after me using the revert option 'does not reflect the intention of the OP'. I would have expected you to understand it. I have used the possible formal ways (editing comment and said option) to communicate my stance. Until that point I thought of the whole process as friendly and felt being part of the community. But when the answer got changed again, this ended and I felt bullied.

Stack Exchange doesn't offer many ways to reach other contributors direct or private at all. But when I discovered the chat I even tried to defuse it with opening a 'special' chat and asking you directly if there's any reason to act like it was perceived by me. Your answer came in a rather bossy and quite passive aggressive way, adding to my unease.

Mind you, that using chat was new even to you (as your question in a comment above shows)? So you should have anticipated, that I didn't know about it either. And maybe wait some time. Well, I found it :)) And at least your defensive chat answer included the words 'asked on Meta' which after some thinking brought me here.

The whole affair makes me feel quite unwelcome at Retrocomputing. I just have been pointed here recently by a friend, since I'm into computers since the 70s and gathered some knowledge afterwards. My intention is to help if I can, but not to waste time on useless games that I already skipped decades ago on usenet et al.

I do invest some valuable time in writing answers (as you do editing my lousy spelling), but there's a feeling looming that it's not worth it, if my answers get damaged in content. If you disagree with something on a factual level, i.e. think I'm writing rubbish, feel free to add a comment and be assured, I will muse about and usually incorporate it. Promised.

Last but not least: I believe Stack Exchange is an international medium. So being aware of and acceptance of different ways to express some topic should be embraced or at least tolerated.

TL;DR: If there is no profanity or clearly off-topic parts, and the original poster already rejected your edit (or parts thereof) as damaging the post, show some respect and go along.

I sincerely wish to end this now and concentrate with on-topic questions as I would love to contribute more to Retrocomputing at Stack Exchange.

  • 2
    Thank you for putting this to bed.
    – Chenmunka Mod
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 11:11
  • 4
    It's possible to be disrespectful without profanity. "Ouch!" is a great example. It says to me "I'm an expert, and as an expert who already understands the subject, I found that article perfectly understandable (by clarifying the unclear parts with my prior knowledge). If a non-expert can't immediately understand that occasionally confusing article to the same expert level as me, well, they're a bit dim and deserve to be treated in a condescending manner." If other people thought the answer was so obvious, my question wouldn't have received so many upvotes (many more than I usually get).
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:10
  • 5
    The "relevant answers" I deleted were: "So, why not just believe it? Gaps are gaps. Whatever is in the gap doesn't matter. Maybe it's remaining of previous sectors, or alien messages. Looking in there is as useful as playing records backward." and "Ouch. That is wrong on so many levels. Repeat after me: there are no byte cells on floppies". I believe that was already more than adequately covered by "Gaps (point 2.1.) are completely ignored", "The gap bytes between header and data have no real meaning at this stage", <cont>
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:17
  • 1
    <cont> "The gap spans the space between data blocks (header or sector). There are no bytes, just rubbish." and "For one, don't look at a floppy as something with an inherently byte orientated structure. There is none." My edits removed that redundancy. Why would you repeat yourself so much unless, again, insulting the intelligence of the question asker? I was also perfectly willing to resolve this between us in private (the chat I requested you join is visited by very few people and fills with other messages quite quickly). I don't have the rep to start a private chat as you now do.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:22
  • 3
    You ask that I ignore your language style, yet you describe mine as "passive aggressive". The retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/tour page says "Our goal is to have the best answers to every question, so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them.", "Remember: we're all here to learn, so be friendly and helpful!" and the retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/help/be-nice page says "Rudeness and belittling language are not okay. Your tone should match the way you'd talk in person with someone you respect and whom you want to respect you."
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:31
  • That being said, I can see that you have already made some great contributions to this site. I hope that read the tour and help pages and moderate your words slightly. Nobody can hear the intended tone of voice in writing, so we all need to keep in mind that we should be a bit more mindful that if we were talking to the other person face to face. I certainly hope that you stick around and continue to contribute. ☮ ✌ 🕊️
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 5:35
  • 2
    @Chenmunka This issue has not yet been put to bed, and I have just edited my question.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 22:42

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