The same also goes for questions that are almost duplicates. Or are basically but have been inactive so you want to get further information. And when interesting discussions get moved to chat. The whole place is just boring and too heavily controlled. I"m not surprised something that required community failed there.
EDIT: And the karma DOES matter if you want to get new opportunities via stackoverflow careers. I have landed a job recently via SO and chatted with the recruiter a bit about their experience with the platform. He told me some companies specify they want to hire from the pool of Top X% in given technology. Another thing is the response rate on SO is dramatically better than Linkedin, which doesnt surprise me: I do my best to answer every SO Careers message while I mostly ignore Linkedin recruiters.
Yes, the question is obvious. And yes, it can be answered via 10-20 minutes of RTFM. But, the value of Stack Overflow is that it replaced 10-20 minutes of RTFM with a simple answer.
So, don't knock the RTFM questions on Stack Overflow. That's part of its value to the greater community.
(I must admit that I've answered very few Stack Overflow questions because every time I find an answer. I did take the time to write out a well-written answer for an obscure problem, and it got me plenty of points. It's nice that the community has a 1000x ROI, too.)
But at the same time you are learning with blinders on, i.e. you miss out all those things you would have also learned by reading the documentation.
This is not particularly bad when you're just starting out. But if you see RTFM-level questions from people which appear to already be in the business of building complex applications then you start to wonder if this kind of thing incentivizes help-vampirism.
Personally I prefer to answer niche questions or things that are not well-documented yet.
That's assuming that the documentation is articulately and technically well written. Unfortunately that's more often the exception than the rule. That's rather the whole reason that StackOverflow even exists, I think.
before: questions were always open. and over time people added those details.
now, after someone answer with a one liner and gets accepted, the question is "closed to prevent 'me too' comments"
it's going downhill for the same reason every internet community does: power crazy moderators who completely misses the point of the site they moderate.
Every "me too" protected item I've seen has half a dozen "me too" answers deleted at the bottom. It's likely necessary.
This leads to a kind of popularity gold-rush pattern. Hard important stuff languishes while easy stuff is has a glut of volunteers.
I'd be interested to see what happens if questions and answers only gave up to a fixed limit of Internet-points to the authors or contributors. Would it lead to a broader knowledge base?
Yes. You're correct about that
For a help vampire, even SO is not rich enough to make them competent. For a competent developer, SO is not efficient enough for them to learn helplessness.
Edit: Or perhaps the library has poor usability. I've been doing python programming for 6 years now and know the standard library like the back of my hand, but if I have to do anything reasonably complex with datetime you can bet I'll probably just look for someone on SO that has had the same problem and crib the answer.
It sounds fine to me, because the programmer can't think about all usecases, so they better be on a user-managed website.
There are people (like me) willing to kill some time solving useful problems that people in the real world are actually having, but SO's theory of broken windows is so extreme that they want to make me feel bad for doing that.
Its possible to have a site that is a mashup of /r/programming, /r/programmerhumor and /r/learnprogramming (and a few others) all on one site. Though when all of those things are together on one site it makes the job of the people trying to curate it impossible.
Sure, Strangest language feature is interesting... and it has 320 visible answers when it was locked. Is it useful? It might be interesting, but it is impossible to remove the crap content from it (go to page 11 and start reading backwards and saying "is that useful or not?").
Jeff Atwood wrote about this - https://stackoverflow.blog/2012/01/31/the-trouble-with-popul... . Too much interesting but ultimately not useful stuff gets in the way of finding useful stuff. This really runs up against the Atwoodian vision of Stack Overflow ( https://blog.codinghorror.com/introducing-stackoverflow-com/ )
> It is by programmers, for programmers, with the ultimate intent of collectively increasing the sum total of good programming knowledge in the world. No matter what programming language you use, or what operating system you call home. Better programming is our goal.
Interesting stuff and fun stuff may be interesting and fun - but when it gets in the way of making a site that is a library of good programming knowledge... something needs to be done about it.
Everything doesn't have to be on Stack Overflow. There are many other sites that are better suited to discussions and fun things than the format for that Stack Overflow took as a Q&A site.
It may be boring and heavily controlled... but that unity of vision is necessary for trying to make it a site that provides material that I need when I search for how to deal with some programming problem of configuring Spring Statemachine or whatnot... and then interesting and fun gets in the way of me doing my job.
For one thing, it seems almost all the code snippets use "print-without-parenthesis" from Python 2, so you cannot just cut and paste them into Python 3. It isn't hard to fix this, but it's a clear sign the lights are on and nobody is home.
The lack of curation is a problem too. Often the first answer is wrong, or less than optimal. From the viewpoint of somebody looking for answers you don't really want 10 people's opinion, you want one really good answer.
If it's a really popular question I think making it a community wiki is an alternative.
For instance, on this question I posted a nicely upvoted thorough answer to a popular old question whose other answers were dated. By active sort it becomes #2 (#1 is always the accepted answer), but by votes sort it's #4.
The part about an old answer that was highly upvoted but is no longer right definitely exists — I'm not sure if they've thought about solving that one.
This becomes especially noticeable when answers based on an old version of the language or library no longer work for a newer one.
I think that's not such a bad thing. https://i.imgur.com/Uq6tksu.jpg
But yes, answer rot can be a bit of an annoyance. Often it helps to check the answering date. The official answer to the problem is that one should post a new answer to an old question, but it would be great if one could just drive-by flag things as outdated, needs update or something like that.
I think the word "curate" is interesting here, as in, pick for emphasis. I think maybe a mistake that SO makes is to close or remove topics, rather than "deemphasize" them.
Instead of closing things, why not just make poor answers and poor discussions lead to less likelihood of being found in the search engine. (I suppose this might take some coordination with Google et al..)
One thing I don't particularly like about SO is that the questioner must select the "accepted" answer. Quite often this isn't the best one, or there isn't a best one, or there is too much discussion in the comments and not in the answers.
What is missing imho is a meta vote. Individual questions and answers have votes, but I think the "selection of the best answer" should also have a kind of "confidence vote". This might help to make the most interesting questions and answers more visible.
On the other hand maybe it's so "meta" that no one would use it, and a recommendation engine is only as good as the willingness of users to recommend things..
But in any case my overarching point is that there are too many "binary" evaluations of goodness on SO, instead of letting things bubble up to the top when they're interesting. (The difficulty of course being to define "interesting" as useful and accurate, rather than just clickbaity.)
Questions should also "age" and become deemphasized with time, especially for more popular topics. SO is getting old, with a lot of out-of-date stuff, and relying on manually closing topic to maintain quality isn't going to help with that. If stuff aged out, it would push the more recent stuff to the top. It would also increase engagement since there'd be space to answer the old questions in new ways without it being futile.
That's not to say the old answers are bad (people have to work on legacy stacks after all), but you should only find that stuff if you want it.
As to "timeless" - consider that even such material can expire. The "timeless" information about how to simulate a closure in Java (valid from 1996 to 2014) is no longer timeless. The timeless material applicable for all versions of Python (until Python 3) would make it just as difficult to get rid of as a green checkmark next to the answer that someone found helpful at some point in the past.
If you ever create a meta-moderator user script for Stack Overflow I'd be interested in seeing how well it works. The biggest problem being the volume of material that is coming in on a daily basis.
These are only a few instances of places on Stack Overflow where community curation of larger material has worked. The C++ community on Stack Overflow is very careful and protective with https://stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/the-definitive-c-... . But outside of that, most people let questions and answers rot.
Fun and interesting can happen when it doesn't become a distraction for the site as a whole. MathOverflow, with more active curation that is possible with a larger active contributor to overall community ratio is able to handle list questions ( https://mathoverflow.net/questions/tagged/big-list?sort=vote... ) in a way that has often failed to be curated well on Stack Overflow.
The "less likelihood" is a binary thing. Stack Overflow can't say "index this, but don't show that result often" to google. Google does what it wants. The way to remove noise to help with the signal for that vision of good programming knowledge is to, well, remove noise. People up voting fun things makes that signal for good material even harder to find though.
Right, but I guess I'm sort of suggesting that what is needed is something in-between. "Soft" curation, if you want. Just an idea anyways, but it seems to be like it would be more scalable, and less likely to cause controversy e.g. when something gets deleted.
> The "less likelihood" is a binary thing. Stack Overflow can't say "index this, but don't show that result often" to google. Google does what it wants.
But yeah I guess that is the crux of the matter.. not much can be done about other people indexing old/bad stuff.
Are you serious? Whenever a community allows for more-or-less self-appointed authority figures, they ALWAYS emerge, as they are drawn to the perceived power.
Wikipedia, Stack Overflow, etc. They all have their toxic "lawyers". Users who have passed a certain threshold of "points", or else are simply willing to invest the time to squat on a topic, and enjoy abusing the power to delete or revert contributions from others.
To a certain degree it's probably a good thing, as the sites would be overrun by trolls without them. But they also tend to calcify the culture after a few years, and drive down any incentive for new contributors to step in.
StackOverflow's core problem isn't a lack of people willing to edit questions or vote-to-close. It's core problem is that it's been at least 5 years since I last felt like reading or answering any open questions, or even posting any new questions of my own, and I don't think this sentiment is uncommon.
But that's the point: if people are leaving the site to get that discussion and fun stuff elsewhere they're not on the Stack Exchange network, and so they're not answering or tagging or voting or flagging.
Fun material is rarely present on sites intended for technical accuracy. Trying to add jokes to Wikipedia main page content is a similarly fruitless endeavor.
wikipedia is routinely used as a site with a toxic culture that succeeds inspite of, not because of, its community.
Imagine how great Wikipedia would be if it the userbase didn't have a significant proportion of pathological arseholes.
The content and vision of the founder for that content is what draws people to Wikipedia and stack overflow.
That it takes people who occasionally need to be assholes in order to maintain that vision and ideal is a failing of communication to the out of sync contributors... and those contributors to follow that ideal.
There is nothing stopping anyone from forking the content stack overflow or Wikipedia and providing a different vision. If more people follow that new vision, it wins and the world shifts to a different site (that is what happened with experts exchange).
The main problem with the fork however, is getting the people who contribute good material and don't want to have to read jokes about exposed buttocks on the moon or favorite comic strip amidst documentation for Java.
The fact that these are three separate subs and not one kinda betrays your point though. How did it get this way, where there are multiple subs? Is it because the mods were overbearing, or because the community decided what it wants and doesn't want?
There are cases when content from one sub seeps through to another, and the blowback isn't nearly as bad as what you see on SO.
SO is a great resource, but not providing a mechanism for this is its greatest failing. I understand "subjective" questions are problematic, but banning them outright without qualification is not the correct solution.
I've always thought restricting them to users with 2K reputation or something like that, and having a different set of closing standards if you tag your question "opinion" or "tool-recommendation", could work well. The most highly upvoted (ie, useful) questions are more often than not marked "closed" -- and that has always seemed like an undeniable signal that the current system doesn't capture all potential value.
But I'm with you – if anything, even more extreme – the SO model handles 'subjective' questions just fine.
Instead of trying to say "these rules apply to only this tag and always when this tag is included", that entire set of topicality was taken to a different site. Consider trying to ask the question "what is the best C complier given XYZ requirements" on SO. Its tagged with "C", "recommendations" and "compiler". Well... that would mean that it shows up in the C feed - and those people don't think its a good question, so they close it. And then the recommendation followers say "but its tagged with recommendation - that means it should be open and its ok if it gets 100 answers." Two different policies on the site. So branch the community - ask the questions about recommendations where a different policy for what makes a good question and answer on a different site.
CodeGolf was that way. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/code-golf - but two things happened. First, it got lost in the noise of all of the other questions on the site. Secondly, people who wanted to have fun questions with many answers that constantly get bumped to the top of activity were getting their questions closed and down voted because of that fun. So the community branched to a new stack exchange site https://codegolf.stackexchange.com where they have flourished even more than they were when it was a tag within stack overflow.
That Software Recommendations doesn't have the activity and isn't flourishing the same way suggests that first off people aren't interested in moderating or curating the site in a way that attracts more than drive by questions. With a Q&A site it is the Answers that drive if it flourishes or not. The quality of the answers draw other people who want to provide at least as good content. Also, the format for Q&A doesn't work as well for recommendations. Why does it have to be on Stack Overflow or another exchange site? Why not go over to https://www.slant.co where the entire focus of the site is the "what is the best XYZ" - https://www.slant.co/topics/4265/~open-source-c-c-compilers https://www.slant.co/topics/1376/~resources-to-learn-about-c... or https://www.slant.co/improve/topics/7940/~which-open-source-... for example. Different format focused on that question doing it better than Stack Overflow ever could (but that's also because it doesn't try to do a more general Q&A format).
> Why does it have to be on Stack Overflow or another exchange site?
This seems to be the crux of the matter, and here is where I still (at least partially) disagree with you. It doesn't have to obviously, but the SO seems particularly good at answering many of these questions, as attested by the innumerable highly upvoted and closed questions and answers. Which is to say, there are many posters on SO who are exactly the people I want to ask these questions of, and who would be willing and able to answer them.
> That Software Recommendations doesn't have the activity and isn't flourishing the same way suggests that first off people aren't interested in moderating or curating the site in a way that attracts more than drive by questions.
You know that's not a reliable conclusion to draw. There are all sorts of confounds here, the largest being that people don't know about the site. But beyond that, there is just habit and access: If I use SO all the time, and some subjective question pops up in a feed I watch, I may just answer it -- even though I would never visit software recs on its own. This phenomenon is ubiquitous, and the power of entrenched habits can't be overstated.
All that said, it's possible I'm wrong and it wouldn't work. But I've read the meta threads about previous "attempts" that failed, and none of them convinced me that it can't work.
> Why not go over to [a site of which you're not aware] ...
Incidentally, Slant seems to be flourishing about as much as the Software Recommendations SE site.
They would likely be confused whether they should use jQuery, Backbone, or React, as they'll all be intermixed as highly upvoted.
This is thing: I'm not arguing (and I don't think anyone is) that these questions have answers. I'm arguing that access to the opinions of others, along with their reputation and other indicators of alignment with your own values, has immense value. More value than the technical questions that do have right and wrong answers. I can sort through the information myself can come to an informed conclusion.
This allows for Googlers to use several different wordings for a question and still find the single page with the answer.
It used to be great to be part of SO. No, any time I ask a question I wonder if it's going to survive...
Feels? There is no feels there's a clear desire for mods to push their personal agenda on Stack Overflow.
Closing, Merging of questions is slowly killing the site.
Consider that without people who care about the quality (and that means trying to maintain a standard for content by removing material that doesn't meet that standard), you'll get Yahoo Answers.
Go ahead... try it... read some programming and design questions there, consider answering them. https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20170802102541A... https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20170726200637A... https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20170724205902A... https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20170723132853A...
Without moderation, you've got a steaming pile of crap that no one wants to look at or touch.
I believe that people become rude when that is the only moderation tool that they have remaining in their toolbox to be able to maintain/protect the community that is there.
Look at those Yahoo Answers posts I linked above. Many of them are rude - because it is the only moderation tool that they have. Stack Overflow of old and the smaller Stack Exchange sites tend to be less rude because the tools to maintain the vision for what the site should be are sufficient.
The people who have the vision that closely aligns with the original Atwoodian idea tend to find the site (for lack of a better phrase) under attack from an endless tide of poorly asked questions. They cast down votes on them, they close vote them, they delete vote the worst of them... and it hasn't made any impact. A look at the front page and 50 new poorly asked questions are there. The tool that remains is to... curtly say the question is no good in comments.
This isn't helped at all by the belief from people who are more familiar with a zuckerbergian model of social sites where an up vote is the same as a +1 like follow user and anything negative done to a post is a judgement of the user who wrote it (rather than the content itself).
Another factor to consider is the ratio of people who are active in moderation and curation of the material (in particular, the amount of time they're willing to commit to those activities) to the amount of new content a day. When there are more people to help out, the content can get more attention and individual help. On CSEducators.SE, that ratio is very high. I'd guess its about an hour per post. On a site like Software Engineering.SE, it may be a minute per post. On Stack Overflow, it is fractions of a second per post.
With such little time available per post for the people who are trying to follow the Atwoodian vision of the site, you get: down vote, close, delete vote, and then when those run out "What have you tried?" and move on. There is not enough time to help a person posting a question unless they are active in trying to make it better. When it is clear that the person hasn't read a two minute tour, searched for questions first, or massaged the preview area of the screen with their eyeballs to realize how abysmally formatted the question is (ok, being a bit hyperbolic there) there's not much reason to invest any time into trying to make it a better post - down vote and move on, there's probably a better post somewhere... hopefully.
If its the 100th such post that one has seen and they're out of down votes, pulling a canned comment out of a user script and move on may be the most the person gets. It might be a bit terse (tangent - low context cultures tend to be a bit more on the terse side, while higher context cultures are expecting (pardon the stereotype) "Please kindly see the help page on editing. Thank you." in their interactions - this friction of expectation might be driving a bit of the negative perspective).
And after that, people consider Stack Overflow to be negative. Its not negative
So yes... there is a middle ground. A smaller site where there is a surplus of time and ability for moderators to do their moderation. Ideally one where new users have spent enough time on the site to understand the model for the site and its vision and goals.
You get the same thing on mailing lists. People talking about their favorite cartoon on Linux Kernel mailing list? I'm sure you would find people being rude in trying to get that topic out of their inbox - its not what was subscribed to (and in extreme cases, kicking the person off the mailing list).
In the context of Stack Overflow, it is becoming a victim of its own success. Too many people are asking questions. The ability to moderate has been on a decline - both from people leaving the site and from (what I perceive) as a change in the vision that Stack Overflow Corporate has - from an Atwoodian vision (a library of all good programming knowledge- https://blog.codinghorror.com/introducing-stackoverflow-com/ ) to that of a Spoloskian vision (useful and interesting content relevant to programming https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2008/09/15/stack-overflow-lau... ). The tools that are left... they seem negative to people who don't subscribe to the vision of what the site should be.
Keeping this in mind - I strongly recommend reading http://www.shirky.com/writings/herecomeseverybody/group_enem...
Moderators are not ordinary users; they can do things like remove comments because they are inflammatory.
There a are people discussing the correct usage of English grammar and how to best raise their kids, why not whether NoSQL is really the right solution? Flame Wars?
https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com would probably do best for your sql/nosql thing, e.g. https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/q/54373
https://stackexchange.com/sites worth a browse
> You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.
This is sort of the fundamental limit of the format they chose.
https://codegolf.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask also has it even though it encorages a significant number of answers per question (so, open ended)
Question tangent comments get sent there to try to keep the focus on Q&A rather than side back and forth. It's not gone permanently.
There are also persistent chat rooms for various topics. Their archives are easily searchable.
As you said though, there are a few StackExchange sites which deal with more "squishy" topics, like software design or parenting.
> If you have a question about...
> software development methods and practices
> requirements, architecture, and design
> quality assurance and testing
> configuration management, build, release, and deployment
And as a community, the community decided that they want to keep Stackoverflow for specific programming problems, not those that are opinion based.
It is unfortunate that your POV differs from what the general consensus of the community.
Seems like they've been doing this since the beginning.
Conversely, the lock was introduced to stop those highly interesting (but ultimately useless) questions from getting deleted. If anything, it's a step in being less strict.
As much as I loathe the state of documentation of some projects, I'd rarely open a specific website for help - I'll just Google, "publish npm package", "configure npm package", for which, none of the search results point to a StackOverflow documentation page.
However, if I google for a more specific issue such as Java lambda foreach index, guess what's the first link I get? This Stack Overflow page  Actually, the first six links are SO pages.
So, it is possible that they busted Documentation because of bad SEO for generic plain vanilla searches.
I probably ended up on SO hundreds of times in that period, and never once saw Documentation mentioned (I _may_ have technically seen it in the nav bar, but just seeing "Documentation" in that context I'm going to assume it is documentation _for_ SO and just ignore it).
E: Forgot to mention, even reading the title of this post my initial thought was that it was documentation relating to the sunsetting of SO (which sounded crazy).
And I thought it was Stack Overflow sunsetting the very idea of tech documentation because now everybody just read the SO thread for everything they want to do, which is even craziest.
Few announcements through regular comment notifications would be fine to me even if not interested.
Look again. There is DocumentationBETA in the top bar, it has been there since they started the project.
Anyway, who looks at the navbar? People get there by googling a problem they are having now. They're in hurry, no time to look around.
That isn't the top Google result for 'Stack Overflow Documentation'. It's not even on the first page. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=stack+overflow+documentati...
My search results were what I'd expect:
None of these are https://stackoverflow.com/documentation .
The Documentation page for this in comparison is helpful and gives a good overview (with more and more detailed topics as you scroll down): https://stackoverflow.com/documentation/php/2784/php-mysqli
But again if it doesn't show up in search results it doesn't matter. That also means there's less of an incentive to improve the content since nobody will read it.
I don't know how they're able to hold their place still, I really don't.
It doesn't really teach you anything in depth, opting instead to just spit out a bunch of examples.
As someone who used it initially years back starting out, I would have appreciated if it actually gave me context about how things worked and why rather than just copying and pasting code.
The only real reason it seems to get attention is due to the feedback loop of its ranking. Users see it as a top result and assume it must be some sort of authority on web development.
It has nothing to do with the W3C despite the name. Not to imply that beginners might know about W3C in the first place but still!
I wonder if it's still the same team of 3 developers running the place? Here's a writeup about it http://w3schools.sinsixx.com/about/about_refsnes.asp.htm
You spelt the very reason it is (was?) popular. The documentation/tutorial that gets traffic isn't the one with the most in-depth technical treatment, but, one which gives accessible examples to get started.
The very first thing is an example. The contrast of the fonts is easy on the eyes. You'll be definitely writing code using this method within minutes.
The very first thing you see is a huge green box "Why does MDN look different?", which is completely irrelevant to what I'm looking for. Scrolling down reveals thin gray on gray fonts which make the page hard to read. The amount of information is excessive if you're in a hurry.
SO Documentation had low Google results because nobody used it, didn't have that many good examples, so people rarely linked it and so it had low pagerank.
Besides the obvious reason, not showing up in search results, there is another glaringly obvious one. Well, obvious to anyone except Stackoverflow: their documentation site is horrible.
There was no structure to the docs, no way to create structure or promote relevant parts of the documentation.
Let's open Python docs. Right now it looks like this:
- Getting started with Python Language
- Incompatibilities moving from Python 2 to Python 3
- List comprehensions
- Common Pitfalls
- String Formatting
Yes, there are two `List Comprehensions`. I mean, wat.
As you go into each "Chapter", they all consist of random sections, and the table of contents (called Topic Outline) helpfully hides all links to all sections saying something like "13 more examples" that you have to click to expand.
And the list of problems just goes on and on and on. All of these issues have been raised numerous times and dismissed out of hand by SO developers.
> Unfortunately, we can't afford to work on the problem at the moment. While we have an exceptional team of engineers, there just aren't enough of them to support all the projects Stack Overflow is working on.
I won't be able to find all the discussions that were happening right around the time it left the private alpha/beta. They were quite heated.
The whole format was just wrong, very wrong.
However, I didn't really see the need for it anyway since most larger projects already have their own documentation and don't want to host it on a third party site. Smaller projects just have some examples on the readme. So who is SO Documentation targeted for?
I think a good use case for SO Documentation could be writing tutorials and guides on how to setup stuff. How to install stuff etc.
Providing a shared space where people can contribute to something like that without having to make a PR and push a release to PyPI could be useful.
(i) (as you mentioned) it encouraged early rep mining by novice devs and in at least some case, created a top-level structure that i found suboptimal (to say the least); and
(ii) i think giving rep also provoked the high-rep SO users enough so that they never went near documentation, and so if docs were going to work, it was going to be without the same folks who helped build the Q&A. The OP mentions "New users weren't coming to Documentation" (as consumers) but at least in part that was because not enough quality content....
I've never wished for better documentation instead of a clear example for my specific scenario, and it seems the existing site already has that well covered.
The link the appropriate examples/tutorials from the pages of related questions. Then they can leverage their SEO for people's issues and drive traffic to documentation.
But most people go to SO to find solutions, so it's probably in the nature of the site to privilege short reads over longer ones. That could change but it takes time.
Recently I had lost internet and had work that needed to be done. I ended up having to go to a coffee shop because I knew the name of a few functions I wanted to use but I didn't remember the calling semantics. I could have just tried it until it worked but I just took the excuse to go to Dunkin Donuts, grab a coffee, and work there.
Do they plan to release their Stack Overflow Documentation files? It would be a good way to start something like this. Make an offline and searchable version of this dataset with a uniform offline and searchable version of Python, Java, etc docs.
Zeal is available for windows and linux. It uses same docsets as Dash for mac.
They have offline mode. But the documentation sets are not as comprehensive as Dash.
Rust and Android Studio, for example, are particularly bad about getting relevant, working current results buried under mountains of not terribly old stuff that is now deprecated or moot.
It, of course, may take a long while for a new answer to get upvoted towards the top.
And the worst is, asking a question will get marked as "duplicate" or something.
My inspiration on how to fix documentation came from Dark Souls messages. In the game, you can't communicate directly with other players, but you can leave messages on the floor that may show up in other players' games. The game intentionally has tricks like fake walls, so messages like "Illusory wall ahead" are common. You can vote a message positive or negative, affecting how frequently it shows up in other games. Unfortunately the player base is also somewhat sadistic, so you often get fake messages (often with another just behind it saying "Liar ahead").
I wish someone would make a browser extension that just allowed you to place little notes on webpages and vote on other peoples' notes. So many documentation problems could be solved with a simple "change <X> to <Y> to make this example work". Documentation maintainers could then just look at the notes on their page to see what they needed to change, instead of waiting for people notifying them of the problem in an official bug report or periodically checking stack overflow looking for issues.
But also I never saw a link ON Stack Overflow point to said documentation. I wasn't even consciously aware of it, even though I must have seen the announce when it launched.
Really, I don't know why they needed so much firepower on that anyway. Just a glorified wiki + maybe paying some good known documenters to kickstart the site with a few very high quality guides would have been enough to get the ball rolling (given internal promotion).
I personally think it's a bad idea. It's what users think they want rather what they'll use.
The classic RTFM is a classic because humans don't want to and won't. They just want a direct colloquial answer, cause human. AKA classic SO
Then go out and get an actual book, targeted at your experience level for programming. Do you need a bunch of tutorials? Or just a language reference?
Without a reasonable investment of volunteer curators for the material, the SODocs will never be as good as the focused material.
There was too much focus on making it so everyone could contribute with not enough focus on the workload of the people who knew the material, tried to invest time into curating it and ultimately gave up under a deluge of people just there for the rep.
Good writing needs to be organized from the top down. Stack Overflow's Documentation tried to create documentation from the bottom up, and the result was predictably a jumbled mess.
This outcome really shouldn't have come as a surprise. Other projects have tried and failed to crowdsource documentation before -- Wikimedia's WikiBooks is a prime example.
I guess contributing to full "improved" documentation with examples is actually a lot more work than just answering someone's question.
So while I'm not a power user, I use Stack Overflow and yet I was not aware of Documentation until I read this sunset notification.
Perhaps get a better marketing department?
Nowadays I mainly hang out on the [haskell] tag because it attracts interesting questions and people seem willing to put in some effort to understand and improve an unclear question rather than downvoting and dismissing it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s a mistake to conflate having points with deserving power. It creates divas at best, and oligarchy at worst. Moreover, it creates disproportionate influence: a downvoter with 10K points spends 0.0001% of their rep to remove 5% of yours if you only have 40.
To close something seems like not trivial.
Q: what is foo?
A: foo is Y : <example>
The doc writers can then put above into docs, along with form of original question ("what is foo"), such that the SO page is no longer needed.
Through such a mechanism, SO could improve official docs rather than just be a Q&A repository..
There's plenty of libraries out there that could benefit from something like Documentation.
However, documentation written by people trying to get fake internet points with no skill at technical writing (even such things as the property capitalization of 'i' or running a spelling check on the non-code) increased the amount of work done by people trying to make great documentation beyond a tolerable threshold.
As the corporate goal of Documentation was to increase new user conversion, this additional work was overlooked for quite some time until it was recognized that the vast majority of the content was damaging the Stack Overflow brand and even discouraged the people who were trying to provide answers on the main site.
It's always sad to see an idea with such potential fail (not that the experience lacked value), but I think they made a good choice pulling the plug.
Feels like that's the crux of it right there. A lot of the problems in this thread could have been fixed, with time, focus and money. But if there's no path to profitability...
Shame this ended..