Why no Stack Overflow?

The first question I ever asked on SO was about the structure of credit card CVC numbers. Is it always three digits ? Does it ever contain letters ? etc.

(VISA refers to the code as CVV2, MasterCard calls it CVC2, and American Express calls it CID.) - http://www.cybertec.net/cvv.html

I got downvoted, put on hold, and basically reamed by the community. People said I had no business developing web application forms if I don’t understand the rules of validating credit cards, some pretty nasty stuff. I deleted the question, but now I wish I had saved it. We were simply building a form for Braintree, so I just wanted to alert the user ahead of time for validation errors if I could, rather than wait for the API response. I asked my team and a few other developers, the consensus is that it’s always three or four digits, but I still don’t know for sure, I thought this kind of question was the whole point of SO. It took me a few months to get courage to ask another question.

I’ve heard security questions are the most susceptible to getting bad responses. Outside of that, I think SO is still a great resource for very specific questions which have a reproduction on jsbin or codepen. It’s unfortunate that Meteorpad is not currently available, hopefully MDG will host it as a service. That was a great way to describe specific problems and solutions on SO. The forums here are great to describe concepts and general ways to approach problems. I think both systems have their place. If anyone knows about a specification for those CVC numbers… let me know.



CVC, always 3 digits for Visa/MC. 4 digits for AMEX.


Let’s look at some actual data as opposed to gross generalizations:

  1. There are currently 20,142 Meteor-tagged questions on SO
  2. Of these only 3,238 have no answers at all, a 16% unanswered rate
  3. There are 6,795 questions with no upvoted or accepted answers. This includes the 3,238 questions with no answers at all, leaving 3,557 with questions that have answers that have never been accepted or upvoted. It’s quite common for newbies to ask a question and then not accept the answer. It’s also common for people to answer their own questions and for that answer to remain unaccepted and unvoted on since the issue is basically closed.
  4. So far today (Mar 30th, 2016), 21 questions have been asked of which 5 have been answered. There are several “issues with 1.3 upgrade” questions today which makes today a bit unusual. By comparison there were about 40 questions here (tagged help) in the same time period today but today’s an exceptional day. Monday only shows about 19 questions in this forum all day long.

Let’s compare to a big keyword on SO: Angular:

  1. 162,291 Questions
  2. 28,823 questions with no answers 17.7% unanswered rate, just slightly higher than for Meteor

@rahul, @debergalis, @dweldon eldon. Kyll, and Christian Fritz have all answered large numbers of Meteor questions on SO. Personally I’ve learned as much from David Weldon’s fantastic answers on SO as from any other source. His knowledge is encyclopedic and he answers questions in a very accurate, even keeled way. A new expert, Stephen Woods, has emerged as the recent top “answerer.” @rahul’s contributions on SO go way back, I’ve referred to his answers for just basic html/js/css issues several times.

The quality of questions on SO varies quite a bit. There are many newbie questions. Everyone seems to have problems returning data from an async call in a Meteor method. Newbies often try to handle events and async requests in helpers. Detailed questions about packages can be hard to answer if one has never used the package. There are quite a few deployment-specific questions as well (DigitalOcean, EC2, nginx, etc…) that require experience in some other technology to answer. Some questions really are poorly written and almost impossible to answer. A few questions are completely opinion-based (“Should I use Meteor or someOtherPlatformHere”) and these quickly get shut down by moderators (including myself).

The Meteor community is getting to be large and there will naturally be many places for developers to congregate, discuss, and learn from each other about Meteor. SO has great SEO, especially compared to this forum, that it will naturally be the reference source for many answers about Meteor. Personally I hang out on the Meteor Chef slack channel more than here because of the real-time nature of the interactions. I just personally prefer the slack format to the forum one. A general observation is that there are fewer rants there, it feels more productive. This forum has a lot of opinion in my opinion :wink:

I agree that some moderators on SO can come across as incredibly insensitive. The first time experience asking a question is probably scarring some people for life. It’s like stopping to ask directions at a gas station and the owner shooing you away with a shotgun while insulting your lineage; you’re unlikely to ask for directions ever again. Fortunately the Meteor community has relatively few of these types of moderators but when people cross-tag their questions with javascript or mongodb they can often show up in “our” community.

The problem isn’t isolated to moderators though - a few weeks ago I had a very unpleasant experience with a new questioner who was very abrasive and arrogant. Two of us tried to help him but he showed up on SO carrying so much anger that we had to close his question as abusive. It’s hard to help someone who’s being a jerk.

As @lassombra points out, it’s also hard to help those who aren’t willing to put in any effort at all into reading the docs or working through the Meteor Guide. Note that “the answer is in the docs” is not an available reason to close a question in SO. There are many valid, accepted answers that repeat the docs. Several times I’ve discovered something in the docs that I didn’t know was there (ex: it was added long after I first read them) from reading an answer that included doc links.


What’s the link to your ir question? Perhaps I can help?

I get your point, I’m explaining new Meteor developers why I recommend one solution over the other on daily basis, trust me on that. I just don’t do this on Stack Overflow.

But for me, in many cases, it is not a matter of me thinking that something is currently wrong. In many cases it is just plain wrong and leads to serious security issues, like in the mentioned case of passing user ID from client to server method, or doing only client-side validation (another very common thing among new Meteor developers).

Then, there’s second category of things that are not as wrong but are still a risky practice that may be potentially insecure, like depending too much on allow/deny rules or using profile array to keep crucial user data. These are things that should be answered with “stop, use this instead”.

For me it’s a matter of caring about the second person. Of not letting them to experience bad things on their own when they may be easily prevented.

Hi @michelfloyd

As mentioned, I am still new to Meteor and any help would be great.

Direct link to my question here in forums is:


Thanks, Michel! What do you think the forum community can do to assist Q&A here and on SO?

@michelfloyd, +1 on David Weldon answers, he has been a real help, very didactic and always spot on.

I have been active on SO last year during 3 months or so, and I remember you as being very helpful. All those you mentioned are definitely pillars of Meteor on SO (Kyll being a little too inclined to close questions). You guys are doing a great job and imho, SO situation is not as bad as it is pictured here. Meteor community has the same issues than everyone has on SO. But people are still finding answers there (including me).

Bottom line: there are many good SO answers about Meteor and most are the work of a few, and I wish to thank them along with you (and every one else helping).

If something has to be done in SO, I think it should be on “active” questions (less than 3 days). Meteor is changing and help is more needed on the up to date topics.


I think SO and MF (Meteor Forums) share many of the same pros and cons, and it seems to me that we may be in the first stages of the “trouble” that SO faces when a topic sticks around long enough. Namely, that the members of this community who are most active in helping out could become frustrated with seeing the same questions over and over, etc.

Say I have a problem with my app. It’s throwing an error, but when I google the error, I get a bunch of different answers from different sources. I even see some on SO, but the replies are from 2013, so I’m not even sure they would be relevant. Instead of sifting through the answers, I simply post a new question and hope that someone answers it. If the question gets flagged, then maybe I start sifting through the answers, or maybe I take to another community (MF?) and post there.

There’s no boilerplate for asking questions, so I pop in here (MF) and post my question, with the generic error I’m seeing. Someone helpful responds, asking to see my code, and I reply back with a block of unformatted code. Someone else replies, asking me to use this stuff, so I do. Now I’m a few hours into this bug fix, but at least real people are talking to me, and I’m not poring over google results trying to figure out which one actually fits my case.

Finally, someone helpful on MF gives me the mongodb syntax fix I need, and things are back to being great! But in all actuality, this exact question was asked just a few weeks ago on MF…

A real life example:

This was a good back and forth between a pretty new user and one of the super helpful people on MF: Help with routing

But, when I am creating an almost identical post, the post I linked to above doesn’t pop up:

I’m no expert on Discourse’s algorithm for topic/post suggestions, but I’m wondering if a boilerplate structure for help questions wouldn’t help users find the answers they need before asking another question?

Also, maybe taking some of the top SO questions/answers and compiling them into a FAQ or stickies here, with answers that are updated to reflect the most recent changes, best practices, etc.

I think SO is a very valuable source of information, and it’s interesting to read through questions with a number of useful, varied answers – this has been a great way for me, personally, to learn about the ways in which others think about code.

However, I think for many of the reasons mentioned above, SO can seem hostile, especially to users who are new to a platform. I think MF may be a good place to strike a balance between:

A) asking users to do a little bit of work when trying to solve a problem


B) making the best use of the knowledge and time of the community members

Just my two cents


IMO the Q&A here in the forum as well as on TMC slack will naturally remain “interactive” (get your problem solved now even if the same problem was solved yesterday!). SO is optimized to be a perpetual reference site with high SEO, question and answer scoring, reputation, and curation (annoying as it may be sometimes).

Because the Meteor framework is evolving so fast however, SO answers to reference questions can easily get stale. Keeping those answers up-to-date is important.

Some concrete steps you can take:

  • If you google a question and you find a helpful answer on SO, vote it up! That helps everyone who has the same question later. While you’re at it, vote up the question.
  • If you find that an accepted answer is obsolete and there are no good current answers to that question then provide an up-to-date answer, including the version number for which your answer applies. As others hit this answer they will vote it up and eventually it can become the reference answer.
  • Follow the Meteor keyword on SO via email and if you see a question you know the answer to and you have some spare time, answer it. It’s really just as easy to answer a question there as to post a rant here. Heck, I can often answer a simple question while I’m having my morning coffee (although my post-coffee answers usually don’t have as many typos :wink:
  • Accept the fact that even though this forum has many of the world’s top Meteor experts, developing in Meteor requires a large set of skills that can benefit from a much larger community: MongoDB, reactJS, Angular, devOps, even HTML and CSS. You’re probably going to get better answers on those other topics on SO than here. For example if you want to really understand MongoDB aggregation then you’re going to want to have Blakes Seven answer your question. That guy is an aggregation god.

By the way, after I’d answered a couple hundred Meteor questions on SO Nick Coe from MDG was kind enough to give me a whole bag of Meteor swag at the Meteor DevShop in SF including two t-shirts. So there are benefits!!


Thanks @billybobbonnet! I remember when you first started asking questions on SO. It was fun watching you gradually learn the framework and seeing your questions gradually become more challenging to answer :wink: You’re right that Kyll can come across as a bit brutal. He’s a CS student in France afaict. Very smart and skilled but can seem off-putting at times. I did go have a sidebar discussion with him about that once.

You’re right that recent questions tend to reflect the fast pace of change in the framework. It’s actually part of the challenge - it’s hard to be good at blaze, react and angular and angular2 all at once! Toss in ES2015 and Meteor 1.3 topics and there’s a lot to keep up with.

+1 for @dweldon , his answers always come up when I search, and are a great reference for a lot of Meteor topics.

Great and insightful responses @michelfloyd, many thanks for adding such thorough answers to the discussion. What shines through from your posts here is the human side of Stack Overflow and the genuine desire to help and educate that motivates the prolific question answerers. It’s also clear there is a community inside SO, it’s just not that visible to newcomers.


For me this sums up what is SO.
Don’t bother us elites programmers with you stupid questions.
Why don’t you work things out yourself ?

1 Like

In @lassombra’s defense though, I have seen some questions that just boggle my mind. Like people dumping out cryptic error messages with no code, asking “what’s wrong?” So while there’s definitely a way to pose a detailed and thought-out question, I don’t know if those people deserve to have their questions closed. But, 'tis the SO way and it is what it is, none of us will change that. :slight_smile:


You know what ? I have been one of those people posting a “cryptic error message” without code.
I had a problem with a particuliar compiler that gave me a cryptic error message which i didn’t even understand.
The message didn’t seem to refer to a particuliar line of my code that i could identify, so what part of the code was i supposed to copy & paste ?
I posted a question explaining i didn’t understand what the error message was about.
Fast enough, one of the main maintainers of this compiler (with a 5 numbers reputation on SO) replied with a harsch answer in the style of “how are we supposed to answer without code ?”, and my stupid question was rapidly downvoted to oblivion… A few minutes later, my SO reputation was already starting to drown, and so i had to delete it in panic. The experience was VERY unfriendly, and at the time i thought i was not clever enough to have the right to ask a question on SO.
Later i transformed my question into a github issue (at least there, i have no karma to loose !), and there another maintainer took the time to answer why the compiler was not happy, and indeed the message was cryptic but there was a technical limitation preventing them to implement a better error reporting for this particuliar mistake.
So i still think the problem was not with me but with SO.


I don’t think the problem is really with you or with SO, it’s with the high number of people who make absolutely no effort to solve their issues themselves, which ends up with people who answer questions on SO having itchy downvote trigger fingers.

I bet you didn’t just get the error and cut and paste it into SO? I bet you spent time trying to solve the issue first? It’s showing those ‘workings’, the steps you took to try and solve it, that stops SO questions getting down-voted to oblivion.

That might seem like it achieves nothing, it’s just making you type out stuff that didn’t work, but by listing out the steps that didn’t solve it you are saving the answerers from spending time going down those blind alleys too, and also making the question and answer more useful to future readers. Well… that’s the theory anyway :smiley:

1 Like

It’s a whole different paradigm from chat or forums: I just saw a vague question with no code fly by on TMC and right away someone asked a follow-up question to probe what’s in the question. That works in real-time, but fails badly on SO because the person answering the question wants a question that is immediately answerable, not one that takes 10 follow-ups to figure out with each follow-up taking anywhere from minutes to days.

Let me make a slight analogy: a person with poor command of English approaches you on the street and says he’s lost. You try to help them and eventually you figure out how to communicate and where they are going and you point them in the right direction. That’s the real-time forum/slack version (analogy not valid in Manhattan).

Now over on StackOverflow avenue you’re walking along and you see a piece of paper stuck on a map of the city that says “I lost, pleaze help!” There’s no one around but you. What do you do?


Won’t a day come the power users on this forum will ‘seem to enjoy closing questions more than answering’?
It is easier to criticize a community the size of SO. One day, should this forum grow that big, you’ll come back saying the same thing, ending your post on another new forum by:

"This [referring to that new communtiy] is much better [than meteor forums]

I quite enjoy both and don’t really see the point in a conversation about which is better. I have gotten and given plenty of answers on SO, more than I have here, but I suppose I haven’t posted too much here.

I feel like SO is where I’ll get more specific nuts and bolts help, while the forum is a great place to interact with the community around meteor, discuss things relevant to the community, get news, and I do see there’s technical stuff here, but its not been my first thought when I consider the Meteor forum.

I’ll definitely continue to ask questions and answer them on SO, and try engage with forums more as well.