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Programming News

Interviews: Stack Overflow Co-Founder Jeff Atwood Answers Your Questions 78

A few weeks ago you had a chance to ask author, entrepreneur, and software developer Jeff Atwood about founding Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange Network, as well as his new endeavor, the Discourse open-source discussion platform. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Magic wand
by Anonymous Coward

If you had a magic wand to make one change in technology right now, what would it be?

Atwood: Users would not have to generate, remember, enter, or ever think about passwords again. Computers would automatically know who the user is through a combination of ambient biometrics plus physical possession of some kind of device. Like, say, a smartphone.

Passwords are the enemy. And the users, because we are the idiots put in charge of making up the passwords. But mostly, it's the *goddamn passwords*.



Why did you choose Microsoft Platform for SE?
by Sadsfae

I don't see many large, high profile sites running an entire Microsoft Windows stack nowadays (IIS/SQL Server, etc) but Stack Exchange is one of them.

What were the reasons behind choosing a full Microsoft stack versus any of the Open Source alternatives which seem much more prevalent, especially in start-ups and smaller businesses for web presence?


Atwood: Mostly, C# is what I knew and what I was skilled in -- and I'm a great fan of its primary architect Anders Hejsberg who also created Turbo Pascal and Delphi. Performance was a goal, too, and since C# is a compiled language it's *extremely* fast. I think you can see for yourself that Stack Overflow is absurdly fast. Having switched to Ruby with the Discourse project, I can also testify that Ruby .. is, uh ... not ... absurdly fast.

The only downside of the .NET environment is, honestly, the SQL Server licensing costs which can be quite extreme at scale. There is movement to make .NET more open source. Plus the long running mono effort.

The main weakness of .NET is that it's not great for open source projects, though that has changed a bit over the last few years. It never really made sense to open source Stack Overflow -- ask yourself, how many Stack Overflow clones have flourished? Why is that? As a closed source project, the performance, great language design, and scaling of C# worked for us.

I made different choices for Discourse which *was* designed to be an open source project, a tool that is widely applicable to many communities, from day zero.



History of StackExchange
by unencode200x

A question on the history of Stack Exchange. What was the original idea that drove you to make StackExchange and how has it evolved or added since?

Atwood: Do you remember a site called Experts-Exchange? No? That means we succeeded at our original goal.

The basic concept was to do a 100% community driven Q&A that had elements of:

- Wikipedia (all the articles are always up to date and not dead tombstones from six years ago).
- Reddit (voting up the good information and voting down the bad information).
- Blogs (ownership, curation, and responsibility for content that has your name on it).
- Videogames (the Xbox 360 Achievements system, points, and ways of encouraging and incentivizing positive community behavior that are fun).

Where everything we build together is creative commons, and belongs to all of us, since you guys and gals are the ones doing all the work in the system!



Reputation mechanisms & scientific quality
by Anonymous Coward

Jeff, have you thought about how to use reputation mechanisms to improve the quality of published scientific results? I'm asking in the context of John P. A. Ioannidis' famous paper.

It seems to me one fix for this (horrible) problem might be an online reputation mechanism where scientists could rate the reproducibility of published results. Thoughts? (thanks for inventing Stack Exchange - you've done the world a big favor).


Atwood: It certainly seems applicable. The Stack engine works best for systems of data, fact, and science -- or at least a "tome of knowledge" -- where you can actually verify an answer (or five answers) as plausibly correct. You can see which topics do best on the Stack engine in the Stack Exchange directory, with a massive, Jupiter sized Stack Overflow right at the top.

There's always more than one way to do it, of course, but when you start getting dozens or hundreds of "answers" you don't have Q&A, you have a discussion with no clear answers, just opinions.



User Reputation, Moderating, and Discourse
by T.E.D.

I think its probably inarguable that the biggest innovation StackOverflow brought to the web was the centrality of reputation and user moderation to its design. Sure, our own /. had done something similar years before, and it was hardly the first either, but no website I know of had before taken it to its logical conclusion in quite the way SO does. This effectively "crowdsourced" a lot of traditional website administrative activities, which turned out to be an incredibly powerful idea. Practically all the functionality of SO is built around the concept.

So when I saw you were tackling online message boards, I expected the same kind of thing. But browsing around a typical Discourse thread, I'm not seeing that at all. Sure, users can "heart" posts, but all that does is bump a small counter next to the heart. There is no way to tell at a glance which posts users found the best and/or worst. Higher rated posts don't sort to the top, or get bigger or anything. As a result, I don't even see that feature used much. Certainly its nothing like SO, where post voting is the central activity. It also seems like moderation on Discourse is designed to be done by administrators, not users. I don't see any facility for users getting moderation privs as they gain reputation. Compared to SO, Discourse seems kind of, well, like a big step backwards in interactivity.

I'm sure I'm missing something here. What is it? Or did you really decide SO's centering of its design around users and their opinion on posts was a mistake, or perhaps just not a good fit for a more generalized discussion board?


Atwood: Sorting a conversation by votes is a pretty effective way to destroy conversation. How can you follow the logical flow of back and forth, chronological dialog when the ground is constantly shifting underneath you as posts get voted up or down? You can't.

Stack is a system of technical Q&A, where opinions are fascinating, and all, but they are completely trumped by facts, data, and science. Stack only tolerates the minimum amount of discussion necessary to get the best questions and the best answers. The goal isn't for people to talk to each other, the goal is for people to *answer the damn question*. Ideally with the aforementioned facts, data, and science, so our peers can objectively decide if the answer is correct and works.

Discourse, on the other hand, is explicitly a system of discussion and opinion. There is no right and wrong. You can't tell me my opinion that Wolverine is the coolest X-Man is wrong. Long after people have forgotten what exactly was said, they will remember how you made them feel. That's what the like (heart) action is about, and why it is featured so prominently: empathy. Discourse is a system of empathy.

We do have user trust levels in Discourse, it's just less obvious, because we're playing a different kind of game. Compare that with Stack, where your reputation number and badge counts appear prominently next to your name every time you post. Trust me, people *do* notice when you like their post. And if they see your post got 20 likes whereas their post only got two, or none, they absolutely notice that too. Discourse is more of a collaborative game, where Stack is an explicitly competitive game, and that's why the score is so prominent. The best way to motivate a programmer is to tell them someone else did it better. Don't try to race sheep, don't try to herd race horses.

There may not be re-ordering by votes in Discourse, as there is in Stack Overflow, but there is a summary mode for topics when they reach 50 or more replies. If you'd like to see this in action, visit a longer topic and press the "Summarize Topic" button at the top near the estimated read time, or as I like to call it, the TL;DR button. Then you'll see only the "best" 10 percent of that long topic. That factors in a lot of data from each post such as likes, incoming and outgoing links to the post, the number of times it has been read, total read time (we track actual on-screen read time for all posts in Discourse), number of times it has been bookmarked, number of replies, and so on. You can also expand context above (in reply to) and below (replies) for each post as needed. Or you can expand the collapsed gaps as needed. Try it, you just need a long topic with over 50 replies to see it in action.



Cargo cult programming and Stack Overflow
by Anonymous Coward

I don't mean to minimize StackOverflow's contribution to the online knowledge base, because it's a great tool when used properly. I'm a systems guy and Server Fault is often more useful than vendor support for looking up strange error messages and possible troubleshooting routes. But, there are a lot of low skill programmers and sysadmins out there who lean on these tools way too much. How do you feel about these properties contributing to the crappy cargo cult programming and sysadmin work we see in our field?

Atwood: Stack is a system of peer education at its core. The key insight is realizing that crappy programmers hurt all of us, and it's our job to learn from each other so that we have less terrible code and terrible coders to deal with in the future. Even if that terrible coder is us!

The best way to learn a topic is to teach it to someone else. That is the skill at the heart of the Stack engine. It works at three levels:

1. Selfish. I need the answer to this question or I may get fired. Give me the answer. This is ideally handled through a good search result. They get what they need.

2. Self Improvement. I want to get reputation and prove to my peers that I know what I am doing. The more I learn, the better I am at my job, the more skilled I am, and the more job satisfaction / money / prestige I can gain.

3. Advancement of our craft. Programming, physics, and math will be here long after we are all dead. It's an honor to help move science forward together as much as we can together in our lifetime, so that future programmers, physicists, and mathematicians can stand on our shoulders and do amazing, incredible things for the future of humanity.

It's fine for people to play the game at level one, because they are also helping others learn and work their way up the skill ladder. If someone is learning, and someone is teaching, we all win.



Rampant closure of questions
by WaffleMonster

From time to time I search stackoverflow for easy answers and I would say about 20% of the time the question has been closed even though it is the reason I went to stackoverflow in the first place. In most of these instances a useful answer was also provided before closure. So my question to you is simply what gives.

The most common reason for closure I run into is that the people closing it don't have any domain clue what is being asked and appear to assume if they don't understand nobody else does either.

Another common reason for closure is the "duplicate" question meme in which nuance is overlooked and questions are marked as duplicates because the people doing the marking failed to understand or appreciate the difference. This is very annoying.

Less common but equally annoying issues are closure due to chatter about domain specific algorithms not being "programming questions" or even more amusing someone posting a question that is more specifically addressed by one of a hundred different stack exchanges even though it is still on topic.


Atwood: Remember that Stack is for questions that can be explicitly answered, *not* discussion. It's not a place for "what's the best way to.." opinion sinkholes. Humans love this kind of stuff because they are social animals, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to have a discussion -- you just need to have that discussion elsewhere, because you can't have it on Stack Overflow.

We're strict about this because we've seen what happens when systems are not explicit about their goals. This way lies madness. This way lies Yahoo Answers. In Stack's case the goal is *learning*. And I do not mean accidental, random, meandering, oh-hey-check-out-this-crazy-thing-I-saw-on-Reddit learning, but highly efficient, directed learning where you are a classroom, not a social club.

Duplicates are a hard problem, for sure. That's the one place I felt we didn't make a ton of progress in my four years there, unfortunately. Human beings have the incredibly annoying habit of asking the same questions using completely and utterly different words. They're really good at it. And it is true that over time there are more and more questions and answers on Stack Overflow, so the minefield of "is this a duplicate of...?" is only getting bigger over time. It is a super hard problem. If you have specific ideas of how to handle duplicates better, don't hesitate to ask or search some of the existing topics there.

Remember, Stack Overflow is governed by programmers just like you, you are a citizen of its community just like me, and you get a say in what happens there. You could even be elected a moderator by participating in the yearly elections. So if you don't like the way things work, it's like any other democracy -- make your voice heard, vote, campaign, or run for office.



Relevance of old answers
by Scottingham

As SO ages, some of the offered solutions are no longer valid. Are there currently plans to automate some way of validating old answers automatically? This problem seems to be a larger problem with forums in general. Do you have any musings regarding aging forums?

Atwood: Anyone, even anonymous users, can suggest an edit to any question or answer on any Stack Exchange site. It is like Wikipedia in that regard. Once two other users with sufficient reputation approve the edit it goes through. Alternately, if you earn enough reputation, you can make direct edits yourself.

If you see information that's out of date, edit it to make it more up to date! Be the change you want to see, and all that.



Signal To Noise: Trolls
by Anonymous Coward

In reading your work for years and seeing your various contributions, it seems like you are fascinated with filtering out the most useful information. In many of your blog posts the insight is not yours but rather a conglomeration of chosen useful quotes and sources. I very much appreciate this. My question for you is how do you handle critical feedback vs trolls when dealing with communities. For example, the down button is often a disagree button rather than a negative point. How do you deal with mixed opinions?

To use a real life personal example, TEF noted how he felt you were suggesting that people shouldn't play around to learn. Yet, the way he said it was clearly inflammatory. How do you separate the legitimate concern and critical feedback from the troll who doesn't want to listen to your response?


Atwood: There is a reason we don't have a "dislike" or "downvote" in Discourse. How can an opinion be wrong? It can be rude, offensive, misinformed, misguided, or just plumb crazy -- but it can't be objectively *wrong*. Often the way you judge posts in Discourse is by their *lack* of likes. If nobody feels strongly enough about your reply to push the heart button on it, and 'co-sign' it with their name in public, that says something.

As for separating legitimate criticism from trolling, I don't know that actual trolls, by the strict definition of the word troll, are that common. I think bad faith makes itself quite clear in the tone and delivery of the criticism. Are you saying this in the hope that we can both learn something from the interaction, or are you saying it because you want to hurt or shame or denigrate or discredit me? Truth alone, as it turns out, isn't the whole truth. How you say something matters.

Bad faith is especially visible to the audience, who has no stake in the argument, and can be surprisingly objective in judging authenticity. One of the most striking things about the early days of Stack Overflow was seeing how people would not upvote cruelty. They wouldn't necessarily downvote it, mind you, but overt cruelty and meanness in an answer was never an effective way to get upvotes and reputation even if the technical information was sound. The best way to win an argument isn't to convince the other person, necessarily -- good luck with that -- but to convince everyone who is watching. And you will never convince an audience watching you be cruel to another person.

In life, being cruel to others may achieve some short term goals, but it is *never* a winning long term strategy. And I think that is exactly how it should be.



How do you have a good debate online?
by AmiMoJo

It seems like the internet is mostly a terrible place to have debates. Many forums quickly become echo chambers for people who want to be as offensive as possible just to prove that they can exercise their free speech rights. Other times debates are derailed by cheap tactics like being deliberately offensive to derail the arguments and bog everyone down in accusations that they are "SJWs". Ad-hominems and obvious logical fallacies seem to be the norm.

How do you plan to avoid this happening? So far no-one seems to have found a way.


Atwood: We have a few tricks up our sleeve at Discourse. We try to teach communities not just how the software works, but how human beings should work, with stuff like our Universal Rules of Civilized Discourse which is prominently featured in every install of Discourse and of course Creative Commons licensed.

I believe in the “Just in Time" theory of human behavior where we try to reach you at the exact moment you start typing your first post with the TL;DR version of those rules. And the most important rule of all for empathy is a simple one: hey, there's another person on the other side of that screen. Not just an abstract name, an avatar, a collection of pixels, but a real live human being, just like you.

I don't know if we can weaponize empathy but I'd sure like to try. Not every space has to be open to everyone, unless you work for Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes the point of having your own community is being able to close the door on people who demonstrate that they can't behave themselves in your house. Live with wolves, and you learn to howl.



Stackoverflow in hindsight
by jez9999

In hindsight, would you have reduced the scope of on-topic questions for Stackoverflow to where it's at today when you started the site knowing what you do now, and do you think it would've made the site less popular?

Atwood: Much of the strictness of Stack Overflow evolved as a side effect of the reputation system. Once you have a reputation score, you want to protect that score, and nothing devalues your own reputation more than seeing some other programmer get 300 reputation points from a humorous answer containing nothing but an XKCD comic. Anyone can post an XKCD comic; that takes no particular competence or knowledge. So the evolution in strictness -- peer reputation should come from expression of *skill*, not funny anecdotes -- was largely driven by the community, not by anyone employed at Stack Overflow.

Even knowing what I already knew, which is that putting a number next to someone's name will cause them to do whatever it takes to make that number go up -- I didn't anticipate how strong this effect would be. But ultimately I agree with it, and I think systems should trend to slightly increasing strictness over time as they grow bigger. Big cities have different problems than small cities, and they need more structure.
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Interviews: Stack Overflow Co-Founder Jeff Atwood Answers Your Questions

Comments Filter:
  • Atwood: Sorting a conversation by votes is a pretty effective way to destroy conversation. How can you follow the logical flow of back and forth, chronological dialog when the ground is constantly shifting underneath you as posts get voted up or down? You can't.

    I have done it here for years.

    • Slashdot doesn't sort by score, rather it can filter by score. Threading, date/time, etc. all keep their precedence

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The ability of Slashdot (and Reddit, etc.) to sort conversations is very much predicated on the existence of threaded discussion. Without threaded discussion, the direct replies to a topic get lost and scattered, and may even end up before the post they were replying to, with all the temporal paradoxes that involves.

      In my experience, there is nothing more controversial in the realm of online discussion boards as the for/against on threaded conversation. There are people (mostly older folks who remember Usen

      • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

        The ability of Slashdot (and Reddit, etc.) to sort conversations is very much predicated on the existence of threaded discussion. ... Jeff's very much in the anti-threading camp

        From the person whose question he was answering (who is temporarily sans mod points), this is a very insightful post. Jeff's answer makes perfect sense, if you *assume* the software doesn't strongly support threading. Which Discourse doesn't (mostly).

        Now from *my* perspective, as a person who had a choice and has *chosen* to read email/news/forums in threaded mode since the first threaded newsreaders came out in the 80's, it doesn't answer the question at all. There are theoretically loads of other ways t

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I will not use a system (for conversation, this sort of site - as an example) that does not allow me to sort (oldest first), thread (oldest first - still), show all (-1, here), and allow me to have a metric ton (preferably all) comments loaded at once. I read. I read a lot - an unhealthy amount, really. Since the days of yore, I've read comments at various sites. This system works for me.

        Sometimes the longer and more involved topics can make threading difficult but Slashdot deals with this nicely with a lin

        • "I will not use a system (for conversation, this sort of site - as an example) that does not allow me to sort (oldest first), thread (oldest first - still), show all (-1, here), and allow me to have a metric ton (preferably all) comments loaded at once."

          Well you showed them! You don't have an answer to your question, and you can't get your job done, but by God you stuck to your guns and showed that SO who is boss!

  • It works at three levels: 1. Selfish ... It's fine for people to play the game at level one, because they are also helping others learn and work their way up the skill ladder

    Wow - that is a really cool observation. Atwood just went way up in my estimation for expressing this.

    • This fights against the "Go read the 2000 page manual, you idiot!"-itis found on specialist sites.

      A reference manual is a terrible learning tool. It is only useful if you know what you are looking for. For that matter, it is difficult to use if you don't know the correct words to search for, as he mentions elsewhere when discussing duplicate questions.

      Programmers who get off on saying RTFM are useless and should not be allowed anywhere near such discussions. If you were sitting next to the guy, you would

      • RTFM may or may not be useful, depending on how you say it. If that's all you say, then yes, it's useless. But if you provide a link to TFM (or maybe a chapter/section number of a readily-accessible book) then you are pointing someone at the right answer without doing his work for him.

        This is especially important if the question is (or appears to be) someone's homework assignment.

      • In the (not so rare) cases where a question was closed as a duplicate even though it was not, the right course of action is to act the question for a third time. This time - underlying differences and focus; linking the existing "duplicates" and telling how they don't answer what you need. It works.

        Also, don't treat every single closure as a "punishment".

        "Duplicate" closures mean people still get the correct answer (at the original question) but they still provide alternative paths to find it.

        "Migration" cl

      • It may be a SO domain specific feature, but the ones I use do provide a link at the top of the question stating what it may be a duplicate of. I'm sure it requires some sort of admin to find the question and plop the url in it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      His response to the severe problem of way too many excellent and useful questions at SO getting unjustifiably closed is abysmal.

      It totally misses the fact that online moderation, whether at SO or elsewhere, is often done by people who have no influence at all in the offline world. Being so powerless, they strive to obtain power online. This is often achievable through moderating sites with user-contributed content. By subjecting others to censorship, these moderators stroke their egos and try to lengthen th

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Real programmers get everything done by 10:30 AM, and spend the rest of the day posting on Slashdot, levelling up on SO and working on personal github projects.

  • Or are they just perfecting COPY / PASTE?

    1) Google "How do I do X in Y?"

    2) Click result in position #1

    3) COPY

    4) PASTE

    5) GOTO 1

    • I've been a professional software developer for almost 30 years, and I can say that this isn't new.

      There has always been cookbook programming and programmers who can only do it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or are they just perfecting COPY / PASTE?

      1) Google "How do I do X in Y?"

      2) Click result in position #1

      3) COPY

      4) PASTE

      5) GOTO 1

      Fifteen years ago I worked projects where I had the luxury of really diving into one language or technology and mastering it. Now every project has a huge set of completely new platforms, languages, libraries, buzzwords, etc, and I'm expected to hit the ground running on day one.

      So, yeah, I'll google "jquery change combobox options", open the first hit (usually Stack Exchange), copy-paste-test-commit. Bam. Next search, "less css inherit", copy-paste-test-commit. "iBatis map jodatime", copy-paste-test-c

    • by jetkust ( 596906 )
      Why do people keep saying this? Looking up something on the internet has nothing to do with how good a programmer you are. The idea that you can just copy and paste an entire program from the internet is dumb. In fact, if that were true, this is exactly what everybody should be doing (because what else is there to learn). Looking something up on the internet is no different than reading documentation, only faster and more efficient. I've never worked on a single project that could be copied and pasted
      • "Looking something up on the internet is no different than reading documentation, only faster and more efficient."

        When reading the official documentation you have an authoritative source for information, and while there may be some errors, in general the answers you see will be correct. When searching the Internet it is a whole different ballgame. The internet is chock full of posts promoting worst practices as best practices, or just generally giving advice that doesn't work or is just really, really bad

        • by jetkust ( 596906 )
          Searching the internet leads you to what documentation you need to look at, which is also ON THE INTERNET. RTFM is almost never an alternative to that. And TFM wont have you any more informed on "best practices" when you realize nothing in it addresses your question in the first place. Once again, same thing. You're gathering information. You can either find a slow way to do it, or use modern technology and search the internet. People keep trying to be snobs about it when in reality they search the i
        • I agree that RTFM is a great way to learn, but so is searching the web and learning things in context. Those who don't RTFM are probably just looking to patch something, rather than build out whole applications, so I don't think it's a major concern. I think the best coders will be those who maintain their curiosity and continue to try to improve things, not those who just rip snippets off the web and cobble them into some barely-functioning thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "How can an opinion be wrong? ........... it can't be objectively *wrong*. "

    You're an idiot, of course an opinion can be objectively wrong.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > You're an idiot, of course an opinion can be objectively wrong.

      Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So-called "civilized discourse" is some of the blandest, boring, mind-numbing conversation there is. It's completely devoid of original thought. This is because original thought might just hurt somebody's feelings, which is considered totally unacceptable for some reason. Negativity, especially negativity that's the most legitimate and correct, is also not tolerated, again because somebody's feelings might get hurt. Discussion forums where that's the policy quickly become politically correct mutual masturba

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Yet you stated such in a civil way... IOW, I disagree. You can have decent, thought-provoking, insightful, and original thought in a civil manner. It takes effort and the parties should all be civil but, it's certainly feasible. For that matter, I've had lots of it - with people I didn't agree with. But, yes, you must put the effort into it and the other participant(s) be receptive of such.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      "Civil discourse" does not mean that you are afraid to say things that some random reader might take offense from. You are thinking of "political correctness".

      "Civil discourse" implies not gratuitously and unneccessarily insulting the addressee. That need not be boring, but it requires some thought in order to be engaging. There is some real wisdom in a movie called "Blast From the Past (1999)". My favorite quote is:

      Troy - 'I know, I mean I thought a "gentleman" was somebody that owned horses. But it turns

    • So-called "civilized discourse" is some of the blandest, boring, mind-numbing conversation there is.

      This message brought to you by Trump 2016!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2015 @04:11PM (#51029067)

    Hey there. I'm a developer working on some pretty niche stuff. Usually, the questions I have aren't entirely code-related, but they don't fall on any other Stack Exchange site's purview. So I post a question and, instead of getting answers from people who are also coders and have also worked with the same stuff, I get a bunch of people going all "Hey, this question doesn't belong in SO/networking/whatever". This got old fast so I stopped contributing my own answers to the sites. Can you work on making the community a bit friendlier, a bit more flexible on this? Because right now it's a bunch of rule lawyers. Thanks.

    • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

      Usually, the questions I have aren't entirely code-related, but they don't fall on any other Stack Exchange site's purview. So I post a question

      If it's not code-related, don't post it to Stack Overflow. The site owners have been very clear about what type of content they want on their site, and questions like that are not it. The response to "we don't want that type of content on our site" is not "I'll post it anyway then complain when it gets removed". That's what spammers do. Don't post stuff whe

      • This is "The Soup Nazi" approach to helping people with their questions. It is absolutely infuriating. I want to love Stack Overflow. Really, I do. I use it often. But I never, ever post there, because I am not thick-skinned enough to take the harassment from the junior dungeon-masters about the appropriateness of my question -or- answer.
        • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

          This is "The Soup Nazi" approach to helping people with their questions.

          It's not. This is the equivalent of somebody going to a soup stand and asking for ice-cream, then complaining when the soup stand won't serve ice-cream. That's not what the soup stand is for and just because you really want ice-cream, it doesn't mean it's their responsibility to serve it to you, and it doesn't make them nazis for refusing. Where does this misguided notion that Stack Overflow shouldn't be allowed to define bounda

    • Nicely ask in the question that if it doesn't belong here, could you (please) be redirected to the right site? :)

      "Programmers.SE" is also a good site for questions that can't be answered with a snippet of code. You may get a better track record asking there - especially that it's not so ridden with competition between vicious addicts of the karma that swarm every new question and fill it with loathing if they find they can't gain any karma to be earned from it.

      Also, if the situation was regular, it would be

    • by rp ( 29053 )
      The same thing happened on Wikipedia. It seems rather inevitable.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Do you have to pay a license fee to Lucas Films (now Disney I guess) for looking like Jabba the Hut?
  • Seems he did not graps it.
    It is a pain the ass to have high ranked google hits of questions that are closed as duplicates when they are clearly not duplicates.
    Just had that problem a few weeks ago when I had to edit the sendmail.cf file manually, because the toolchain to go via sendmal.mf did nit exist on that machine.
    A good deal of the usefull questions where closed as duplicates ...

    Even worse is the amount of questions that are closed as 'non constructive'.

    As far as I can tell, people with the reutation

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Note to self: must remember not to post sloppily in haste, and to always preview and proofread. Else there is too much danger I will appear either drunk or slovenly to the reader.

    • Seems he did not graps it...questions that are closed as duplicates when they are clearly not duplicates.

      But, he did:

      Human beings have the incredibly annoying habit of asking the same questions using completely and utterly different words. They're really good at it.

      I think the main problem is that questions can be closed as duplicate without explanation. My observation has been that a lot of people do not yet know how to simplify their problems, and are thus less effective at asking questions. They may not realize that their question is actually a duplicate, because the people closing it did the simplifying for them and realized it was a duplicate.

      As an example, this morning I saw a question with a subject like "Conditional += operator" -- their question w

      • No, he did not grasp it.

        The duplicates in question: are not duplicates!

        He tried to answer it, and luckily you grasp the problem as the rest of your post shows.

        Condescending trolls or not, it sort of forced you to think about your problem a bit more and after a few weeks of that, you're a lot better off.
        That is usually not the case when I ask a question.

        Closing valid questions is just a little bit less annoying than the stupid: 'why do you want to do that' answers.

        • The solution is:

          - ask the question one more time.
          - link previous "duplicates"
          - tell exactly how they don't answer it
          - tell what you expect from the answer, that the accepted answer doesn't have.

          Example [stackoverflow.com]. The original question asked "how to deal with the problem". My question was "Why the problem exists; what are its potential consequences?" - I had to state I'm not looking for solution but for a rationale, not "do it because standard says so" but "what rationale lies behind this entry in the standard?" - it

  • This "question": Jeff, have you thought about how to use reputation mechanisms to improve the quality of published scientific results? I'm asking in the context of John P. A. Ioannidis' famous paper. It seems to me one fix for this (horrible) problem might be an online reputation mechanism where scientists could rate the reproducibility of published results. Thoughts? (thanks for inventing Stack Exchange - you've done the world a big favor).

    When I say it in the original thread, I was sure it would be picked

  • I remember expertsexchange.com, not a bad site though it was surprisingly full of nerdy Internet types. Maybe that explains the apparent male preponderance in IT, it just looks that way.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (5) All right, who's the wiseguy who stuck this trigraph stuff in here?

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