Better "Format your code" canned replies?

(Jan P.) #1

These are my two “Canned Replies” I use trying to get people to format their code as “Preformatted text” when they post code snippets, error messages or command line output. I use these a lot:

  1. If I already changed their post via my moderator powers:

    I changed your post to format your code or error message correctly. Please use the </> button above the post input field to format your code or error message or wrap it in ``` (“code fences”) manually. This will make sure your text is readable and if it recognizes the programming language it also automatically adds code syntax highlighting. Thanks.

  2. If I want them to change it themselves (7th post with unformatted code, obviously unreadable and they should have noticed by themselves):

    Please edit your post, it is not very readable at the moment.
    Use the </> button above the input field to format your code, command line output or error message (select the text first, then click the button or wrap it in ``` manually). Check the preview if it looks better. This will make sure your text is readable and if it recognizes the programming language it also automatically adds code syntax highlighting. Thanks.

Any ideas or suggestions for improvements?

[Plugin] Catch and educate users posting code without properly formatting it

I think your approach is along the right lines, but if you want to persuade people to change their behaviour you have to appeal to their values. Right now your messaging sounds like changes that YOU want them to make. I’d emphasise what the change will do for them. Maybe something like:

Hi there,
Thanks for your recent post.

We’ve discovered that people are much more likely to get useful (and quick) responses if they format their code correctly. I’d suggest using the </> button above the input field to format your code (select the text first, then click the button). That makes it easier for people to read and respond.

(Jan P.) #3


It’s actually ME that wants them to invest a few seconds to at least make their f**ing code readable - but that’s my mood speaking after triaging through 20 of these unformatted posts.

Of course you are right - appealing to their actual goal makes total sense.

Posting this more “personal” message (it just feels that way…) somehow seems strange to me. There is a natural “revulsion” happening that is hard to explain. I think it somehow feels “fake” a la “Thanks for contacting us. We value you as our customer. Please wait 45 minutes until we drop the line” hotlines. Understandable?
But of course each individual poster only gets it once (or twice for repeat “offenders”) and so it doesn’t sound as cheesy to them as it does to me posting it the 23rd time.

You left out some bits of my text (```, check preview, radable, syntax highlighting). Was this a conscious decision or just because it only should be an example?


Understood, but that’s possibly part of the issue.
This is about reciprocity. Community building is about people and relationships. Healthy communities work on mutual respect. Unhealthy communities are missing that part. People don’t feel accountable to anyone because they don’t give a s*** about what anyone else thinks or feels. Your job is to build relationships with members so that they WANT to do things to help you.

The latter.

(Jeff Atwood) #5

Yes, but the help vampires outnumber the people who know stuff, and they will ultimately kill the helpers by sucking all the life out of them … see


Right, but this is about perception.

Crafting a canned response to use more persuasive language may not work for everyone but it’s more likely to work for some, and ultimately comes at no cost.

(Jan P.) #7

Thanks @HAWK.

Having a better canned reply was my goal, that is why I created this topic here. And switching over the language will probably work, because of the reasons @HAWK mentined - what she writes just makes sense (and I expect her argument to be based on lot of experience or on some research I am now too lazy to look up myself).

But: I think the “help vampires” analogy is spot on.
(Although I vigorously disagree that this is a male phenomenon.)

The community I am talking about definitely is not a “healthy community”, “mutual respect” is not the rule. I am just a person wanting to give back to the software (and parts of the community) in question a bit and learn about while doing it, so it literally is not “my job”.

But the conclusion that using a bit psychology can help me achieve this goals, is still great.


Haha – thanks. Based on experience, yes, but if you ever want to read up on it, research persuasion methods.