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I answered this question:

Why is egg commonly allowed in vegetarian food?

and a later answer alerted me to the fact that my answer was culturally specific. This question thus provided an excellent opportunity to mark and attend to the differences between ideas about vegetarian practices and ethics in different cultures.

This answer of mine uses as an example a definition of veganism that I consider narrow and outdated (although the basic principle is useful for the purpose of the question I think):

Is there a difference between "vegan" and "plant-based"?

In the UK and US, I am aware of white vegans and majority white vegan groups being rightly criticised for using offensive imagery and ignoring complicity in issues such an environmental racism and gentrification. PETA, a vegan organisation, is or has been involved in various problematic campaigns, like the ban on traditional bull-taming in Tamil Nadu.

Whether or not the majority of people who are deliberately following veg*n diets are living in Europe and the Americas, I am getting the impression that most of the most active contributors to the site are, and I am concerned that "Western" (which should probably be read as white-oriented) ideas about veg*nism are tending to be dominant, and that some people following veg*n lifestyles may feel that the site is not for or about them because of that.

This is a broad question, but I am just going to leave it here for people to think about... And if you are white and from a "Western" country (like me :S), maybe think about letting someone else answer first?

How can we make this sure this site is inclusive?

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    I've felt something similar altough I still can't answer to your question. I'll think about it! – Attilio Feb 10 '17 at 0:13
  • Do you think it is possible to be culturally representative when English is required, and any deviation will likely be edited? I personally see edits as suggestions - that's why rollback is available to the author -, but many might feel as just another standardization tool. – Ramon Melo Feb 24 '17 at 16:58
  • The elephant yam in the room might be that "vegetarianism" -as in the site title - is, in western culture, usually equated with ovo-lacto-vegetarianism ... which is not actually the main focus intended for this site as it seems.... – rackandboneman Mar 14 '17 at 11:57
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I do not think a question should have only one answer. Having multiple answers for a single question is clearly encouraged by site stats that monitors number of answers per question (currently only 1.7 answers per question out of 2.5 which is considered good).

So, culture specific answers are not a bad thing, since other culture specific answer may follow. It is very unlikely that one person can cover all the relevant country/culture specific aspects of a question.

In order to get have the site more welcoming, we should:

  • invite people from other countries/cultures
  • suggest in our questions that multiple answers from multiple viewpoints (countries, cultures etc.) are welcomed
  • upvote all good answers, regardless of the cultural background and the time that were posted (late answers usually have a major handicap)
  • try not to "hammer" (close vote within review) poor questions outside Western culture without a nice comment that indicates how to rephrase it to make it more answerable
  • do not downvote answers without a comment (this is for all newbies)
  • do not forget to upvote a good question (this is a problem on all SE sites and they actually have a badge - Electorate - that is not rewarded if a fraction of votes is not on questions) regardless of specific country/culture
  • I hope I didn't give the impression that I think culturally specific answers are a bad thing - I think the opposite, that we should name our subject position and mark the cultural specificity of our answers, since, as you rightly say, one person can't speak for all cultures – Zanna Feb 13 '17 at 0:34
  • "Hammering" (downvoting, closing, etc.) is a terrible problem on many SE sites.. :( – Attilio Feb 14 '17 at 18:15
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I think SE, as a network, tends to be structurally unwelcoming to peripheral cultures. Not because we, users, don't welcome them here, but because we have a bunch of arbitrary social rules and not many of us deal with deviant behavior kindly.

First of all, since English skills are required for us to understand each other and organize content, there is an inevitable cultural barrier for them to join us.

Secondly, to the few who decide to cross the bridge, there's an implied message that poor English skills are frowned upon. I see it all across the SE network: several edits to fix grammar mistakes, one or other comment about bad English, but it is a common topic whenever a site is considered under attack. It eventually led to this blog post:

The truth is, by requiring fluency in English, we're shutting out of a lot of developers who may know enough English to read it but not enough to feel comfortable participating.

Replace "developers" with "veg*ns" and here we are. Of course, we can't stop editing, After all, good grammar promotes an easier read and clearer meanings. But, still, it is a hard message to convey to new users. Most of them feel they are being "corrected".

Speaking of which, there is a generally snarky attitude towards users who don't "fit in" from the very beginning. I don't see it particularly often here, but I see it everywhere else, and it is quite a divisive behavior, building walls between "them" and "us". Quoting another blog post:

Every community starts out needing to recruit members, so they tend to be very friendly to newcomers.

After a few years, an insider group of old-timers forms. They get to know each other. They know the rules. They know the history and the legends of the community. And it's only natural to get little bit irritated when newbies show up who don't know the rules.

Newbies will show up, make a newbie mistake, like wearing shoes indoors or forgetting to close the toilet lid, and the old-timers will look at each other, roll their eyes, and snort, "Typical!"

At this point, if it's a normal human community, it will start to feel a little bit unfriendly to outsiders. Insular.

And the newbies will say, "well, gosh, that's not a very friendly place."

Not just the newbies who got scolded. Also the 100 passers-by who saw the newbies get scolded. Who might have been great members of the community, and who did nothing wrong, but who are not really interested in joining a community that appears to be full of smug jerks.

Of course, we still need to be able to downvote, comment, edit, whenever it's needed. But we also need to understand that a new user - particularly one who's not used to the Western etiquette - needs time to realize it's not personal. Our rules are meant to protect our community from abuse, but not from new users.

Maybe it would be a good idea if we got into the habit of:

  • leaving a comment welcoming them and telling we left a "suggestion" as an edit, instead of just fixing their grammar mistakes;

  • leaving a comment with suggestions instead of downvoting;

  • pointing users to our resources while still keeping it friendly;

  • politely rejecting social discrimination of any kind, even if it wasn't the author's intention to be insensitive (mea culpa).

In other words, it would be nice if being nice was truly part of our policy. We just went public, so I believe the time is right to make it to our guidelines.

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    +1 and thank you, I very much appreciate the thoughtful post... I just slightly feel some implication that "we" is a particular culture? That's the problem in my mind, I don't want there to be a "we" and "other"... we are all other here in a global context, I hope... How can we avoid etiquette being Western? :) Also, I think downvotes are necessary, but should come with comments. Also, rather than leaving a comment, I think welcome etc should go into the edit reason message, to keep the site tidy. 100% agree intention is not magic & snarky comments about English should be flagged. – Zanna Feb 24 '17 at 19:14
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    @Zanna "we" is meant to be the users. I don't consider mine as a "central culture" (although I recognize it's not one of the most peripherals, either). I agree that welcoming on the edit looks good (never thought about it, great idea!). – Ramon Melo Feb 24 '17 at 19:39
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    @Zanna I don't think etiquette is necessarily Western. I also think our community's etiquette exists for good reasons. But there are a few "cultural shocks" that we should make easier on them: in some cultures, it is generally accepted to copy information from elsewhere without citing the sources; some cultures place less value in science and philosophy than in their common sense; some cultures might be less accepting than Western; some languages might adopt a gender as the "default"; etc. Kinda hard to make an exhaustive list, but I think we should be less intimidating when dealing with them. – Ramon Melo Feb 24 '17 at 19:42
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    Yeah I'm sensing the domination of "Western" epistemology and I hope I can try to disrupt that. I want to avoid thinking in terms of us and them if possible. If anyone is them, then I don't want to be us – Zanna Feb 24 '17 at 20:02

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