Why no Stack Overflow?


#16

Speaking as a so-called “neckbeard” I find this extremely offensive. The suggestion that because I am of diminutive size with a beard covering what would normally be visible of my neck I automatically lack social graces is quite appalling. More appalling is that you got 2 likes.

Please take time to think about the derogatory slurs you use next time, and the implications and generalizations you are making.

I used to answer things on stack overflow all the freaking time, but I also got sick of the situation. I have enough rep to moderate, but unfortunately the powers that be gave too much power to the community, and in standard fashion whenever there are anonymous people with power, there are trolls, and stack overflow failed to filter the trolls.

Most of the time however the people closing questions are people like me. We are sick of answering the same question, over and over, or answering questions that show little to no attempt to work things out for yourself. Quora is also quickly becoming like that. I get asked to answer many questions per day that show complete lack of basic knowledge of the domain, and are just trying to get quora people to do it for them. When the questions on stack overflow are obvious duplicates, or obvious failure to even try, that degrades the quality of the answers given. People like myself have decided, with the blessing of large chunks of the community, that we aren’t going to answer questions that show no initiative themselves. Instead we will downvote them, vote to close, etc and if we are not rushed (which I usually am not) we’ll tell you how the question could be better.

I will also downvote bad answers and leave commentary about why I did that, but that is far less frequent.


#17

I don’t think “neckbeard” means what you think it means. It’s when someone doesn’t shave for several days and grows facial hair on their neck. I regularly have a neckbeard when I work several days in a row, totally immersed in code (and oddly enough, my Linux skills always seem to spike during those times - kidding!). I actually have a neckbeard right now, and I’m not offended.

How about just leave them alone? Someone might be in a serious jam, trying to get help, and then someone comes along and decides (whether their judgment is sound or not) that the question should be closed, thus foiling their attempts at getting their problem solved.

And often times, documentation for certain tools is… less than good. So if someone goes to SO to ask questions and someone flags it because “you should RTFM,” that’s not really fair considering the weakness of the documentation.

On the flip side though, has getting close votes forced me to write better questions? Sure it has. But there were still times when it was extremely frustrating to have my question closed when I needed help and was on a deadline.


#18

No, I get what it is supposed to mean. I have been called a neckbeard by many people. It is an implication that the person being called it is

  • A shutin with no social skills
  • Incapable of proper grooming
  • Therefore not a functioning member of society from which any input is welcome.

In short: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=neckbeard

I have been called such by several people just because I disagree with them. Thing is, I also fit the common stereotypical physical description of the eccentric sysadmin/devops guy that noone wants to mess with.

The problem with this is that it takes time and energy away from real answers which further knowledge in the space. Stack Overflow is still flooded with questions that I can’t even comprehend because they’re so badly worded. I generally just move on, but when it’s bad enough, I’ll pipe in with a bit about “please work on the structure of your question” or “please simplify your question to exclude unnecessary filler which makes it harder to understand the real question” Sometimes I’ll see just plain duplicates, or questions that literally are “do this for me” questions. I will vote to close those, as they are by definition, not what stack overflow is about, and I don’t want to waste mine, or anyone else’s time filtering through those questions.

While there are condescending jerks in every circle, I will never reply with RTFM and flag it. If the question is clear, and there is a definitive answer, even if it’s in the docs, I’ll link the relevant portion of the docs, describe why it’s the answer, and move on. I think most people on stack overflow are like me in that regard.

There are only two deadlines I can think of you would be referring to here. The first is academic, and I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to pander to poorly worded questions, regardless of your academic timeline. The second is product delivery/vc funding demo/any business need. In that case, while I sympathize as I too have been in that boat, a well worded question is actually far more likely to get you a useful answer in a short timeline, so even in that case, I think votes to close are the correct answer, even if painful in the short term.

It’s important to remember that noone on Stack Overflow is being paid to answer those questions. In fact, in a lot of cases, the time we put in there could be just as well (or better) spent on our own deliverables or on our own continued education (which never freaking ends). We answer questions on Stack Overflow because we have benefited from the community and want to give back. The biggest mistake in there is that the trolls are allowed to go largely unchecked. Stack Meta is a really painful place where people get trashed just for asking simple questions about why a particular piece of moderation did or didn’t go through! Unfortunately, that means that a lot of people like myself just answer questions and leave, when we probably could be improving the site.

Just a few examples of bad questions, right from the “meteor” category for right now:

These are all poorly written and difficult to comprehend. At least two of them don’t describe what the code is supposed to do or what it actually is doing, they just say “Why doesn’t it work?” These are the kind of questions that bog down the entire process on Stack Overflow and are why I generally don’t even bother to go there anymore.


#19

It takes patience and dedication to help people who don’t ask great questions improve, and to curate the community so that people looking for answers can find them without having to sift through a bunch of noise. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it if that’s your kettle of fish.

I’ve been a moderator on a Stack Exchange subsite for about 6 years now so I’ve seen both sides of this story. Rather than arguing about how people on Stack Overflow are terrible people, or speculating as to the motivations of people who have been elected moderator, I again recommend that we stay on topic and consider how we (the forum members) can help those that end up on Stack Overflow and want to know something about Meteor.


#20

The first ever answer I gave on SO got first downvoted and then removed because somebody didn’t like the fact that I answered a question that was supposedly already answered somewhere else (which was more or less a different question anyways). SO moderators often act like gardener’s dogs - they won’t answer questions themselves but they won’t let the others to answer them either. That’s something I will never respect.

I still like how the smaller SO boards look like, where the community sticks together closely enough to not overuse privileges. Especially the ones not related to computer science but to topics such as history or language.

We can redirect them to forums, Slack, Gitter or IRC.


#21

It’s also worth nothing the welcome message for this forum says:

That put me off posting tech questions here for a while.

Edit: I’m not saying the above means we should use SO, I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t tally up with what actually happens.


#22

@tonyf we have something called meteor-mentor. It is a mentor based learning solution. There are couple of us who have been helped greatly by attending this once a week live hangout sessions. They are held on Friday normally. You can come and ask us questions.

@serkandurusoy is the mentor there. So is @robfallows. @joshowens drops in time to time and holds an event. programmers of all levels come there and benefits form it. We have been doing it for more than 2 months now and going strong ! I at least was able to get my tiny startup app off the ground with @serkandurusoy’s help. :panda_face:

check us out !

and the slack channel is meteor-mentor.slack.com


#23

and I have had tremendous help from this forum and gitter, @brajt is always there. If anything urgent, someone is always there to help immediately. Gotta mention slack channels and this forum too.

Not so much from SO unfortunately


#24

Most of the questions are based on packages within meteor rather than meteor itself.


#25

The problem is that a lot of us (myself included) just don’t have the energy for that. We go to stack overflow hoping to answer one or two good questions, and after reading through 3-5 bad ones, we give up and walk away. I tried to last night go and answer questions on there to reduce the unread count, and after an hour of sifting through bad questions and questions with such specific domain knowledge that it would have taken a significant chunk of time to comprehend the question, much less the answer, I gave up.

That is why more active members moderate the hell out of questions, because they’re sick of terrible unanswered questions mucking things up.

This forum is very helpful, but I don’t even know where to begin guiding the askers on stack overflow to the answers they seek.


#26

Thanks for the heads-up. Just a couple of queries please:

  1. I’m actually from Australia and so wondering what time these meteor-mentor sessions are on?

  2. Is this a free service or paid?

Thanks.


#27

In addition to my previous reply, is there any means of being invited to this slack channel, i,e,: meteor-mentor.slack.com ?

Thanks again.


#28

stackoverflow has become a frustration reliever for some people, who think that they can judge what is relevant and what is not.

Too much focus is given to policing, too little to create content. I think it’s because it’s easier to say “you are wrong” than helping people, and provides more satisfaction.

Plus the more you close, the more power you get, and this has created an averse mood, which has driven off people…

If you normalize traffic data of SO over Node.js for example, you see that SO is quickly sinking into oblivion


#29

I’m not sure how your two examples go together. “Bad” questions, okay, I can understand that though I don’t really agree with you there. After all, there are no bad questions. Only bad answers.

How in the hell do you people expect someone else to learn when they’re not allowed to ask questions? Yes. It’s annoying. But that’s the only real way to learn.

Secondly, I don’t get why domain-specific questions are lumped in with your “bad” questions. Yes, they are specific. So what? Sometimes you do have a very specific and unique condition and you are hoping that someone else has run into this before and actually solved it.

So fucking what?


#30

@rhywden SO has this sad rule excluding questions that have too narrow scope. With moderators deciding what scope is too narrow, so in fact they can close any question based on this rule.


#31

But if you want an answer that’s simply not true: If I ask “my code doesn’t work, why?” and give you no code to look at that’s a terrible question as it’s unanswerable. Likewise if I give you a massive dump of badly written code and say “my code doesn’t work, why?” that’s also a pretty bad question as few people are going to get all that code up and running in order to try and solve my problem.

From the point of view of getting an answer, good questions ask specific things and contain the minimum amount of code to reproduce an issue (in many ways like good bug reports). [quote=“rhywden, post:29, topic:20158”]
How in the hell do you people expect someone else to learn when they’re not allowed to ask questions?
[/quote]

People are allowed to ask any question they like, the point for me is that as I want an answer and also want to be respectful of the limited amount of time that the people answering the questions have, I’m happy to follow some basic guidance about formatting questions as it benefits both me and the answerer.

Generally though, I definitely railed against SO’s tight question asking requirements at the start, but the more I used it the more I understood why they existed, especially when I did some reviewing.


#32

[quote=“tomRedox, post:31, topic:20158, full:true”]

But if you want an answer that’s simply not true: If I ask “my code doesn’t work, why?” and give you no code to look at that’s a terrible question as it’s unanswerable. Likewise if I give you a massive dump of badly written code and say “my code doesn’t work, why?” that’s also a pretty bad question as few people are going to get all that code up and running in order to try and solve my problem.[/quote]

So? Sometimes people simply don’t know how to ask proper questions. In education, we have this concept of “skills”:
The skill to calculate a result based on a formula. The skill to write down your observations in a proper way.

And the skill to ask a question so that you’ll receive an answer. (Related: Dunning-Kruger - people overestimate their skill-level because properly estimating their skill level is also a skill.)

I’m not convinced that the practice of simply locking down those questions is constructive. Particularly as it can be abused easily.


#33

So in which case it seems like you agree there are ‘bad’ questions and that gaining a skill will allow you to ask ‘better’ ones. I accept that’s not great terminology, I think ‘effective’ questions is probably better.

It seems like Stack Overflow actually tries pretty hard to teach that skill? It gives automated guidance on how to ask an effective question (effective in the confines of SO anyway) when you first post questions, it has in built algorithms that post up a message while asking a question that say things like “the answer to this is likely to be opinion based so is not a good fit for the SO format” and it has well documented guidance on how to post questions that are likely to be answerable.

And, if none of that works, the reviewers and users of SO will educate people on how their questions can be improved in order to get a response.

Sure, if it’s your first time of asking a question and you need an answer in the next two minutes then that’s a lot of learning to go through to ask the question, but if you don’t do it your question may well not be answerable anyway and as you say asking questions is a skill that needs to be learned.


#34

If you really believe that, then I can’t help you. There are bad questions. There are some questions that either are out of scope or so poorly written as to be incomprehensible. The teachers who used to say “there are no stupid questions” just enabled people to ask stupid questions without admitting they have a problem.

Oh, I have no problem with people asking questions. But I much prefer to answer questions that are well thought out as a result of a process not unlike this one: http://carlos.bueno.org/2013/09/effective-debugging.html

There are two types of domain specific questions. There are domain specific questions for which an expert exists, and if it was properly tagged, that expert would come in and answer it. There are also domain specific questions which are either something new, or some integration challenge, or something else of that nature. Those are the kind that show up on SO a lot. Thing is, there is no expert yet, but novices are trying to get experience in that domain, and then the experts out there with other intersecting domains are being blasted with questions which are outside their experience area.

Novices have no business entering unknown territory like that, and when they do, and then ask on Stack Overflow, then I, as a person answering, have to weigh the time it would take me to gain enough domain experience to answer the question, often for no reward as you are not likely to upvote or accept my answer, and when a real expert in that domain finally shows up (sometimes multiple years later) they will downvote my answer and add their own before voting to close.

As I said before, as a professional, my time to answer questions on stack overflow is limited. That is time I could better use elsewhere most of the time. My original post that you responded to was my description of what I ran into in the hour I had to spare last night to answer questions. I found only questions in three categories:

  • poorly worded - couldn’t easily comprehend (or at all in some cases)
  • already answered, I had nothing to add
  • Specific to some domain (in this case package) that I don’t have personal experience with, and would have taken me a half hour or more to get enough knowledge to answer the question.

So I didn’t answer. Which is an answer to the OP asking why noone answers questions on stack overflow for meteor.

While I agree that this is a sad rule, it has it’s place, but it requires moderators to exercise discretion, something that is sadly often lacking on Stack Overflow.

The correct response according to Stack Overflow docs is not to close poor questions, but to downvote and leave constructive criticism. Questions that are closed are either “failure to use search to find matching question” or “not actually relevant to this site,” at least in theory. However, that of course is widely abused, and not effective. But that is the goal.

Stack Overflow as a site tries hard, but if that doesn’t work (and it often doesn’t) then the community generally fails at the next step which is to constructively rebuild this. As others have said, and I agree, closing is way too frequently used on Stack Overflow.

All of that said, I think the reason we aren’t getting answers is explained very clearly right here:


#36

You pretty much answered your own question here: from the producer (MDG) perspective, SO is useful for prospects at the mouth of the funnel. This forum is for those who are already converted (if we think of frameworks and platforms as being like currencies, competing for usage…)

Where MDG is, theres many more dollars securing a base of converted quality leads…paying and supported Galaxy users. The forum is the community supported tier of any hosting and works great for that I think.