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Building community and fixing toxic communities have been a theme this past year on the network.

I thought I would share my recent experience regarding this. I've been around SO since the beta, so I think I've got (a) a bit of experience in the community aspect of SO and (b) a relatively thick skin.

I just had a rather unpleasant experience with a preemptively closed question and the subsequent moderator interaction. I stopped engaging when this comment was made, not because I'm a snowflake who can't handle the language, but because it was obvious that I was not being taken seriously.

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This is the first time in 11 years that I feel I've been treated unfairly or disrectfully (a key aspect of "toxic" communication as I understand it) by a moderator, so I would just like to bring this to everyone's attention. It's possible of course that the moderator was just having communications difficulty, but tone as well as content and context does matter in terms of showing respect.

As a practical thing, It's better that arduino.se depend on member voting for closure than having moderators preemptively close (excepting of course spam, abuse, etc). Perhaps the moderators can coordinate amongst themselves and reconsider their closing strategy. FWIW!

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    Just for context this appears to be the question being discussed. – Nick Gammon Aug 7 '19 at 6:55
  • @NickGammon, I deleted that question and replaced it here, with (a) the answer and (b) mentioning that the executable was generated via Arduino. I made it CW since the most important part of the answer is from Majenko. I also corrected my mistake of assuming that anyone familiar enough with executable uploading would understand that it applied to Arduino and non-Arduino executables equally. – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 19:59
  • I still feel that heavy-handed preemptive moderation detracts from the community and the overall quality of the site, though. Muh Feelz!! – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 20:04
  • @MarkHarrison by doing so you also removed the context which is inherently needed for the discussion here. The original one was absolutely off-topic in my opinion while the re-formulated new one might not be. After this manipulation one will likely second your accusation, which is now neither objective nor fair to the moderator you accuse. After all: is this really about your actual problem?! – Sim Son Aug 9 '19 at 14:11
  • @SimSon, Sorry... if your reputation is high enough you can see deleted posts, or you can request a moderator to undelete it. You can blame the original problem on me, for (incorrectly) assuming that everyone understood that once a hex file has been generated the answer is the same no matter what was used to generate the binaries. So I generated another hex file with Arduino-specific gcc options, and re-asked the question referring to the second hex file rather than the first. Speaking for myself, I'm satisfied that all moderators have presented their opions well here... – Mark Harrison Aug 9 '19 at 23:29
  • @SimSon ... and that they may take a "lighter" touch towards moderation, which I feel will decrease bad feelings. I learned something interesting from Majenko (I had to tell him he didn't understand programming for him to say it, haha!), and the site has a potentially useful question for people that typically work with command line tools rather than IDEs. If you can't get the page in any other way feel free to send a note to my email address on my profile page and I'll send it to you so you can let me know what you think. I'm interested in your opinion, I could be very wrong after all! – Mark Harrison Aug 9 '19 at 23:34
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Getting even the most basic of information out of you was like getting blood out of a stone. I guess from your point of view, since you already have all the information, that you can't understand our frustration.

When we had finally got some basic information out of you to make any kind of sense of your question it turned out that it had nothing at all to do with Arduino anyway.

If you had:

  • Had a problem with creating the software for your board using the Arduino API or the Arduino IDE, or
  • Were asking how to manually upload a hex file to an Arduino board

then it would have been on topic and we would have been able to help you.

As it is, you refused to tell us what the board is that you are using (eventually we got the manufacturer of the chip out of you, but still no clue what the board is) despite being repeatedly asked.

If we ask you for information it's not just to annoy you. It's because we need it to be able to answer your question!

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    "Getting even the most basic of information out of you was like getting blood out of a stone." -- Thanks, I feel respected now! – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:10
  • "When we" -- I seem to be having problems with an individual moderator, so the Royal We form of pronoun shouldn't be used. This is all about you. ;) – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:13
  • "If we ask you for information it's not just to annoy you. It's because we need it to be able to answer your question!" -- I'm doubting that a little bit because for most of the discussion my answer was included in the question (since I couldn't answer a deleted question). – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:14
  • Finally, the tone of your answer seems to indicate that you don't "get it." My suggestion remains that, if you're concerned about community, the moderators should meet and try to iron out an approach that focuses on the community taking action and doesn't focus on an individual moderator closing question and engaging in toxic dialog. – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:16
  • Regarding the on-topic nature... it is exactly the tool to use for uploading an Arduino binary to an STM32. I don't know how much you know about software, but once you have a standalone binary the subsequent portions of the toolchain are independent of that. – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:22
  • I have spent my entire working career in software. I am the author of an IDE that is far superior to the Arduino IDE. But that's beside the point. The tool for uploading code from the Arduino IDE to a board using the Arduino API is the Arduino IDE. There may be a stand-alone command line tool in the background doing the work, but if you're not using it from within the Arduino IDE or a similarly Arduino-centric IDE that is configured to run the binary for you, then that is nothing to do with Arduino. – Majenko Aug 6 '19 at 20:27
  • And it is you who does not get it. There are (at the last count) four different tools for communicating with the same chips. Which tool you use depends to a large extent on the board (NOT the chip) and which tool the board designer chose to aim the board at. Be that dfu-util through an FT232 adapter, stm32flash through serial, micronucleus through the Micronucleus bootloader or stlink through an STLink programmer. Which tool is the right tool to use for your board is not dependent on just the chip. – Majenko Aug 6 '19 at 20:31
  • I think you're incorrect regarding there being a single tool for uploading binaries, as exemplified by arduino.stackexchange.com/questions/20978/… . But keep in mind that this post is about the toxicity of arduino.se. I think the tone of your comments is enough to demonstrate the point. Note that you have provided an excellent answer in your comment of three minutes ago. If my question ever undeletes, you should post it as an answer... I would definitely upvote it! – Mark Harrison Aug 6 '19 at 20:37
  • @MarkHarrison, Majenko was elected as moderator despite saying in the questionnaire "Would I make a good moderator? No, probably not. Should you vote for me? Heck no! I wouldn't vote for me.". He was elected because of his broad knowledge in Arduino and surrounding topics – Juraj Aug 7 '19 at 9:51
  • @Majenko what's that IDE name which you are working on? sorry ik it's unrelated to Q/A of this topic. – ElectronSurf Aug 22 '19 at 6:21
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    @newbie UECIDE - uecide.org – Majenko Aug 22 '19 at 11:05
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I wholeheartedly agree the Arduino:SE should be more welcoming. However, it is also true that it can be difficult to get people to update their questions with information and/or improvements that have been requested in comments.


In this case, as far as the question itself goes, I've read through your question, and the comments and I still can't see how it is on-topic for this site. If it hadn't been closed by a moderator, I would probably have voted to close the question when I saw it in a review queue.

As regards your interactions with others in the comments, I'll just note that you are fairly experienced in using SE sites, so I assume you are aware that if you think that something has been said that violates the Code of Conduct you can always flag it, and/or report it to SE Community Managers.


As to your last point, I'm a moderator on another site, and I'm a great believer in the idea incorporated in the Theory of Moderation that moderators should do "... as little as possible".

I try not to use my super-vote to close questions if possible. That is what community moderation is meant to be for.

That's not to say that I don't participate in the review queues. I'm happy to be the 5th-vote to close a question, but (apart from spam, and other posts that violate the SE Code of Conduct), the community decided what is on- and off-topic for that site, and so it should generally be the community that votes to close posts.

On that site, the community has agreed that they prefer a lighter touch from moderators. It works there, and I suspect that it would probably also work here.

In my experience Arduino:SE has enough members who actively moderate via the review queues that moderators really shouldn't need to preemptively close posts quite as often as they currently appear to.

But, at the end of the day, the fact is that it should be for the members of this site who need to decide what it is they want from the moderator team.

If the consensus is that we want moderators to decide what is on- and off-topic, and preemptively close posts that are off-topic using their 'super-vote', then that's fine. It wouldn't be my choice, but I'm happy to go with the consensus view.

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    "moderators really shouldn't need to preemptively close posts quite as often as they currently appear to." - I quite agree... of late, questions get closed with just one or two votes... – Greenonline Aug 30 '19 at 13:15
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You raise some interesting points. There are two main issues here:

  • Is there "toxic" moderation on this site or not?

  • Did your question deserve to be closed?


Stack Exchange has been wrestling for a while with their "be nice" policy, and if you go onto meta.stackexchange.com you will find all sorts of posts about this, for example here and here. There are lots of posts. :)


As for your question, well it was pretty brief, see below. There was no mention of Arduino, or any particular Arduino board. It could conceivably have gone to electronics.stackexchange.com where they are used to dealing with microprocessors in general.

Your original question:

I've compiled a program (betaflight flight controller) via a Makefile and have the resulting hex file.

From the Mac command line, how do I upload this hex file to my Cortex M3 board?

So, I think some votes to close were not totally unwarranted.


Having said that, I agree with the theory of moderation.

We moderators should be able to sit back and let the community handle problem questions and answers, thus keeping our workload light. :)

As Jeff Atwood said in the above post:

Even with active community self-regulation, moderators occasionally need to intervene. Moderators are human exception handlers, there to deal with those (hopefully rare) exceptional conditions that should not normally happen, but when they do, they can bring your entire community to a screaming halt — if you don’t have human exception handling in place.

Note the use of the word "occasionally". If something is egregiously bad, then a moderator steps in and deletes the spam/insults/harassment. Otherwise, the community (non-moderators with reasonable amounts of reputation) deal with it as a group. That way you know that five people agree that your post is bad, not just one or two.


I know from personal experience how frustrating it is to have a question you have asked, on other parts of Stack Exchange, to be closed within 30 minutes by a couple of people, one of them being a moderator. It has happened to me more than once.

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I am having trouble understanding your complaint. Your question title says "Upload a hex file to a Cortex M3 from the Mac command line? [on hold]" and the title of this meta post is "Toxic moderation harms the community". It’s sounds like you are the judge, jury and executioner. To be honest, the meta title you have so carefully "crafted" reads just like a Main Stream Media Fake News headline.

Regarding your comment:

"…It's better that arduino.se depend on member voting for closure than having moderators preemptively close…"

Your question was not closed, It was put "on hold" because it’s off-topic. Arduino.SE is a small community, and as such, we do not always have enough users with the required reputation level to "vote to close" questions.

A question "on hold" is waiting for the person to, for lack of a better term, "fix it’. It is not "closed", and won’t be until a period of time has elapsed. During the "on hold" phase, if the question is "fixed", any Arduino.SE moderator, or the required votes from the community can re-open it.

If the question is not re-opened, and a period of time has elapsed, the system will mark it as "closed". Does that mean your question is gone? Deleted? Never to be answered? Not necessarily. You can see "closed" questions by using the following text in the "Search on Arduino…" text box. Something like this: https://arduino.stackexchange.com/search?q=closed:1

Google also seems to be able to find the "closed" questions, because I have used Google to search for Arduino related "things", and Google has provided me with links to Arduino.SE Q + A’s with the following text in the question title: "[closed]". Don’t worry, the planet can still see your question, and will be able to answer it for a long, long time.

Regarding your comment:

"I seem to be having problems with an individual moderator, so the Royal We form of pronoun shouldn't be used."

I agree with Majenko that your question is off-topic, so "we" is the correct word to use. In other words, if I had seen your question before Majenko put it "on hold", I would have put it "on hold" for the same reason.

Regarding your comment:

"…But keep in mind that this post is about the toxicity of arduino.se.".

You are trying to "spin" your Cortex M3 "off-topic question" issue into an accusation that all of the Arduino.SE moderators are "toxic". The only thing making our community toxic right now is you.

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  • I've long aspired to a lucrative career in fake mainstream news headline writing, so thanks for the vote of confidence! – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 16:36
  • "Does that mean your question is gone? Deleted? Never to be answered? Not necessarily." Sorry, I think you're not very familiar with how on-hold questions are dealt with. Nobody can answer an on-hold question, so when a moderator preemptively puts a question on-hold it means the question will never receive an answer. You can read about this over on the main meta: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10582/… – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 16:39
  • Nobody can answer a question after 5 people vote to close it either. You are assuming a moderator puts the question on hold and never revisits it. I keep a browser tab open for every question I put on hold. Once it meets the Arduino SE guidelines, I reopen it. If the OP doesn't "fix" it, the system closes it. The fact that an on hold or closed question can't be answered until it's "fixed" is good thing. We don't want answers to questions that are un-clear, to broad, etc. – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 17:57
  • In your case, the question is off topic so it should be closed, regardless of how many people voted to close it. arduino.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions. As far as having a bunch of closed questions "hanging around" forever, I don’t like it either. To combat this problem, I have been editing/improving a dozen or so every day. Once edited, the system moves them to the top of the Arduino home page for everyone to see. This usually results in an answer, comments to clarify the question, and sometimes, votes to close. – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 17:57
  • There are over 2100 closed questions, so it’s going to take some time to get through them all. The next step is to delete the "Closed questions that are of no lasting value whatsoever should be flagged and deleted." arduino.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/moderator-tools – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 17:57
  • Notice that instead of responding to your incorrect understanding that an on-hold question can't be answered, you pivoted to a new claim regarding questions closed by five people. As a moderator, you should have the maturity to recognize when you've made a mistake or didn't understand the procedures. Nobody expects you to be perfect! But you should really take some time and contemplate the fact that you pivoted (in a state of cognitive dissonance) to other issues which I never brought up, and totally refused to contemplate the issues that arise when moderators act disrespectfully. FWIW! – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 19:50
  • I was correct. They can be answered, but first they have to be "fixed" and re-opened by several votes or a moderator. Your question was off topic, so the chances of it getting the required votes or a mod to re-open are some where between slim and none. I see you have deleted the question and created a wiki instead. Good job :) – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 20:05
  • Over that past 11 years I've been a good sport on SO, and am happy to change my posts and thoughts to conform with the site. Sorry, but you were wrong in what you stated, and your disrespect for the source of my original frustration (that I could not answer my own question when I found the information elsewhere) is not appreciated. – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 20:11
  • The remainder of my comments were just in no particular order, but were for your information so you could learn more about the meaning of on hold and closed question. Here's another page about what the Arduino community considers off-topic: arduino.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic. This page is excellent because of all the useful links in the right sidebar. – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 20:13
  • If the root cause of all of this chatter was "that I could not answer my own question when I found the information elsewhere", why didn't you title this meta question as such? Your title "Toxic moderation harms the community" accused me, the other moderator not involved, and Majenko as being "Toxic", which I find very rude and not true. Next time you have an issue, please use a flag to get a moderators attention instead of arguing publicly about it. Thank you. – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 20:26
  • I'm still curious as to why changing the wording from "uploading hex file" to "uploading Arduino binary" suddenly made the question on topic. Maybe I had assumed a level of understanding regarding uploading code to microprocessors that people didn't have? Although I don't think so, because Majenko provided a great answer, although he only did it when I implied he didn't understand computer programming very well! :) – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 20:27
  • You mention that my first step should have been to flag the question for moderator attention. That's exactly the first thing I did, and that's what kicked off the comment thread that I perceive as being disrepectful. – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 20:34
  • Have you ever been a moderator on any of the Stack Exchange networks? If you have been one in the past, then you know I can see every flag you have ever raised here at Arduino SE. This comment can be seen by the public so I can’t go into details, however, no flag was raised regarding your "STM32 Cortex M3" question. There were several edits. – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 21:27
  • hmm, then that's my mistake. I thought I raised a flag, perhaps I made a comment instead? My apologies for the mistake! – Mark Harrison Aug 7 '19 at 21:43
  • No problemo : ) – VE7JRO Aug 7 '19 at 21:48

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