Many people, including some moderators, have expressed to me the following, which is an excerpt from a moderator's comment, many times in many places:
... the guidelines are guidelines and not rules. Each community has its own norms and practices.
Although I am not sure whether the Stack Exchange community team endorses such a viewpoint, let us accept it. Now, I wonder how community norms (policies, rules, or whatever you call) are determined by the community. Specifically, the following questions arises:
- Are norms determined in a completely democratic way; that is, are they determined by most users?
- Is there any veto in determining community norms; for example, if most users endorse a norm, may moderators or a group of community leaders (highly active meta users) veto such an endorsement?
- Do users have to express their agreement/disagreement with a norm by voting on Meta; for example, if many users endorse a norm by their treatment on the main site, will it not be regarded as their agreement/disagreement with a norm?
EDIT (by Gerry Myerson): Here is an example of a community norm contradicting the written guidelines determined by the Stack Exchange community team: a moderator wrote,
When you raise a large number of "no longer needed" flags on ancient posts, you are asking us to take some time out of our day to investigate something which (almost certainly) will not impact the overall site. One or two "no longer needed" flags on ancient posts is fine, but, as I recall, there were a lot of these flags. If I was the one who handled your flags, the goal was to send the message "please don't raise so many flags".