Over the last few days, a very small but very vocal minority of users has been leading a crusade against the "unprofessional" use of pictures in posts. As a result of their crusade, many users are under the impression that this is our official policy and a few have complained or expressed the desire to leave.

I feel the situation has reached a point where I speak up before it gets any worse.

To the users in the majority:

We are not enforcing this rule at this moment. We will not remove pictures whose purpose is to merely embellish the page. First of all, we don't agree with it and, secondly, the community has not expressed the desire for us to do so. In fact, the meta question about this topic, What is the criteria for an unacceptable image?, has no upvoted question that support the position of that vocal minority.

If you feel harassed by an user who continually protest about your use of images, please flag his or her comment. If an user is being insistent to an unreasonable degree, we will take the appropriate actions.

To the users in the minority:

Please realize that you are currently in the minority and that your actions are annoying other users. I am not going to tell you not to defend your position, but please be mindful of others when you do so.


I can support one image to embellish a post, provided it actually adds something -- however tenuous -- to the content of the post.

For example consider my parenting question:


The image there is not strictly necessary, but I feel this adds a little to the post by illustrating how over-the-top cartoon violence can be -- and it underscores my question, "is that good or bad?"

However I would be greatly saddened if every single asker felt they had to embellish their questions or answers with an image to make it "better". That is a very dangerous precedent to set in the community.

You should only add images when you feel strongly they add something substantive to the content of the post, not just 'for fun' or 'because it's amusing' or 'because people will vote it up when they see a cool image'.

So I am tentatively against arbitrary image use, but tentatively for thoughtful image use.

  • It's interesting how you chose a question that could have been asked on Skeptics as an example.
    – Borror0
    Jun 17 '11 at 0:50
  • Another thoughtful response Jeff. I wouldn't say we're at the point of everyone 'embellishing' just yet. What's more, it's no sure thing that going all multi-media (i.e. adding an image) will get you voted up. Right now it's probably a 70/30 bet as to whether you'll get voted up or down depending on who comes across your post. Some are of the opinion that an image essentially mandates a down-vote.
    – user2466
    Jun 17 '11 at 1:23
  • I'm unsure where you draw the line. I understand (and agree) that pasting a unrelated images with a post is fairly useless, but what about for my question here: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1540/… While a relevant and fun factoid, it doesn't strictly add value to the issue at hand. Would that be a bad or a good use of a picture?
    – Kit Sunde
    Jun 18 '11 at 1:04
  • 1
    @kit I would be mildly against that one. The twitter message could (and really should) be plain text permalinking back to the actual tweet by that person. And I don't think seeing a picture of someone drinking -- ostensibly urine, but could be anything? -- is adding anything substantive to the content of the post. Jun 18 '11 at 2:48

Borror, your questions sounds needlessly aggressive, at least to me. Perhaps I’m missing some context: did people harass others for their use of images? Or was it rather that they pointed out that four irrelevant images in one single answer might be enough, and how about omitting the fifth?

To the users in the minority:

Are we, though? By how much? And who is the “we” in “ we don't agree”? Your pointing out that

… the meta question about this topic … has no upvoted question [sic] that support the position of that vocal minority.

is downright insincere. The question links to a meta.stackoverflow.com discussion which does have upvoted answers from the “vocal minority”.

Please show that we are the minority, and where we are disrupting the site.

We could spin this discussion around 180°: I’m annoyed by the distracting use of unrelated images and I’m going to leave. No – I won’t. But this is just as sensible a position as the opposite, and yet you make one look a priori inferior.

  • I had several users come to me, saying they were considering leaving over something that was not policy (or even close to it) in the span of 24 hours. Since I thought it was silly to lose good users over nothing, I thought I had to clarify the current state of the debate on Skeptics. That's it.
    – Borror0
    Jun 25 '11 at 19:22

To be clear, I don't care so much about what the community decides as long as I know what I am supposed to be doing. I think they should go and no one has come forward and told me to knock it off other than the authors of the posts I edit. It is certainly not my intent to push people away from the site or start a crusade. I apologize if anyone thought I was trying to do so.

I have asked Meta.SE and now Meta.Skeptics.SE about images. Due to the response from the meta question here I was not planning on editing any further posts on Skeptics with regards to image use. It seems clear that the community knows what it wants.


In fact, the meta question about this topic, What is the criteria for an unacceptable image?, has no upvoted question that support the position of that vocal minority.

I edited that question's title from "What's an acceptable image?" to "What's an unacceptable image?"

The text of the question asks, "what images may I edited out?", so I thought I was changing the title to better match the question.

I also feel that "Anything not explicitly forbidden is permitted" rather than the reverse.

  • Of course, you are permitted to down-vote however you wish; but there is, according to the OP, currently no rule against posting pictures.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 17 '11 at 2:49

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