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New StackOverflow code of conduct (stackoverflow.com)
59 points by ctack on Aug 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments



> “If you bothered to read my question, you’d know it’s not a duplicate.”

2 of the 4 examples of unacceptable behavior are responses to overzealous moderation. I can't see this helping with any of SO's real problems.

Every SO question I've asked for many years has required constant monitoring to correct people who don't actually read the question and either 1) try to answer a totally different, easier question or 2) try to get my question closed. It's exhausting and really makes me wish it had competition so I could abandon it entirely.

The first few items in their code of conduct should be:

1. Carefully read the question before you answer or comment.

2. Carefully read the question before you answer or comment.

3. Remember you're not helping the asker if you repeat answers he already tried or specifically anticipated and said aren't helpful in his question.


Questions that are not duplicates getting flagged as duplicates - this one drives me crazy! Honestly, it's one of the things I hate most about SO - it's so common I've come to hate asking new questions.

I really just don't understand how someone can want to be moderator, but not even be arsed to read the questions they pass judgement on.


Your #3 rings so true to me. I hate seeing my problems getting the XY treatment. They should add a checkbox that says "Yes, I'm asking about a specific approach to a problem. Don't worry about the problem itself. I've already considered alternative approaches."

Also, sometimes the approach itself can be more interesting, or integral to the learning experience. Sometimes you need to implement a few shitty solutions to really grok the pitfalls you're trying to avoid. They cannot always be spelled out.


XY treatments should just go into the comments IMO. They are always relevant to the question (even if you know you want Y -- remember that SO is not just about giving you an answer but also about building a knowledge base), but they never even try to answer the question asked.


Sometimes the asker can't recognize that it is a duplicate - especially if the linked duplicate is a foreign concept to them. For example:

Q: "How do I extract just the last names from this list of contacts?"

A: Closed as duplicate of "How to use regex capture groups"

Asker then gets mad because they don't even know what regex is and the examples in the duplicate seem unrelated to contact lists so they are left without a plug-n-play solution like they were hoping to get.


Sure, that's possible. But it's also not what happens in most cases. The amount of times I've searched for an answer, found something that sounds like my problem but isn't, and then posted my own question just to get it closed is just stupid.


The voting system already provides feedback on the quality of answers. Turning a less than thoughtful answer into a conduct violation is bad. Conduct violations should be reserved for actions that are less than kind, and being uninformed or dumb or distracted doesn't fit that.


Here is an important key to written communication. If someone doesen't understand your written message, the problem is not with the reader. The problem is with you (the writer).

I write clear Stack Overflow question and I don't have the problems you describe.


This is incorrect. A lot of times people are still learning about the topic they are asking a question on, so its often a case of they dont know what they dont know and simply do not have the means yet to properly ask the question. Mostly because they do not have a great depth of knowledge on the subject already, hence the question.

This is also why questions should not be closed as duplicates; it is perfectly acceptable to ask the same question in a different manner as for someone else may find it useful. Do elementary school teachers not answer a child's question because another child asked it similarly in the past? It's more harmful to click on a dozen links to see them all closed as dups and try to find the one that isnt a dupe that hopefully can help you with the question.

Do not blame them for trying to learn, or how they are going about doing it. It's a QA site, not a rewrite the manual on programming languages site.


> If someone doesen't understand your written message, the problem is not with the reader.

Not necessarily on SO. Pretending to not understand a question has become a form of mockery on SO in many cases. You see these responses in many questions that have valid and accepted answers.

There are badly worded questions, sure. But there are also pretentiously shallow attempts to close some questions as quickly as possible.


There is also a difference between people who find it difficult to explain complex technical questions in a manner that is easy to understand and thos who probs dont care cuz thei r 2 lzay 2 write and its ur problem


If someone doesen't understand your written message, the problem is not with the reader.

Someone could ask a question about computational fluid dynamics and regardless of good their writing is I wouldn't ever be able to understand it because I lack the necessary domain knowledge. The problem would definitely lie with me.

This is part of the problem with SO - there's an assumption that any developer should be able to answer any question. When you ask a moderately complicated JavaScript question and get a series of answers saying "Use jQuery!" that isn't because you worded the question poorly. It's because SO points incentivizes people to guess at answering questions they don't have the knowledge to answer. You can't always blame the question writer.


I like to believe StackOverflow has a financial incentive to solve this issue with their jobs site. It's my impression that there's a high barrier to being accepted as part of the community for new users, who I would expect to be on average younger developers more interested in finding a new job. These are users who I imagine SO would like to be users of their revenue-generating jobs platform.

For the last 6 months, my company used both Indeed and SO for recruiting. I much prefer SO and expected the quality of candidates would blow away Indeed. And generally there was less chaff on SO, but there were also less applicants in total and in the end we hired about equally off both platforms. Indeed proved much cheaper.

The connection the SO Q&A site and the SO jobs site occurred to me after I created a new profile for the SO Jobs (technically, Talent) platform and then posted a couple questions as a new user, an exercise I've practiced before. And as before, even though I am an experienced user who knows how to write a quality question, my questions were immediately downvoted almost reflexively by other users. It was enough to almost turn me off the project.

I tried to explain this to our SO sales rep and he said that they were aware of the problem and trying to address it. I suppose this code is what he was referring to. My contract recently expired and my company decided not to renew at this time.


Happened to me too. I accidentally asked a question accidentally from my wife's account, who has low points on SO. The question was also heavily downvoted, which was clear and according to the site's policy.


> If you Google it, you’ll find tutorials

Telling people to google something is rarely helpful.

It's great that Google shows noteworthy results for you, but that's not necessarily true for somebody else, possibly years after you wrote the answer. Also, unlike you, the other person might not be qualified to separate the wheat from the chaff.


Especially when SO is trying to be the resource that is top result in Google for the question! I did Google, this answer about "You should just Google this" is the result!

At least noindex the closed questions, SO :(


The downside to this is some closed questions do have great answers on them from before they closed it.

I always wonder why I get more duplicates as my top hit than the question SO left open as the "original" because it at least feels like those are what I hit far, far more.


There are hundreds of duplicates for some questions: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9686/what-is-the-mo...

...often, with slightly different terms used. So there's a very good chance a given search will find one of the duplicates rather than the original. This is an explicit goal: it helps searches; in fact, if you're not logged in and you land on an unanswered duplicate, Stack Overflow will redirect to the original.


Well, duplicates are probably more likely to get created when the original question is not easy to find using some particular combination of keywords. So in that sense the duplicate is doing it's job.


Any harder enough question usually deserves adding -stackoverflow.com in the search bar.


I think the point of such a response is it's a more subtle way of saying we're here to answer questions, but we're not equipped to impart the entire conceptual framework of a whole field. That's why the response gives some keywords so the asker can find that material.


> Telling people to google something is rarely helpful.

Though it is sometimes, particularly if what the question raiser seems to be lacking is the right terminology to search for. In that case then "Basically what you are looking for is [short description], search SO or Google for [keywords] and you should find more details." is possibly the best answer you can give.

You might rightly ask "why not just include the 'more details' or some direct links in your answer" which in some cases would be the right thing to do, but often these questions are fairly generic or otherwise lacking in detail so you could end up typing out a massive summary of a large knowledge area, little of which turns out to be directly useful.


I agree the people answering the questions and moderators could stand to be a little more kind.

Can we talk about the elephant in the room though - the tsunami of low effort questions from 1 rep users who are clearly students looking for help on their homework?

I didn't use StackOverflow until I was a working professional - while I was in school I hung out in the labs and talked to TAs or my professor if I was stuck. Now it seems like SO has become the default TA service for everyone foreign and domestic. It's exhausting to see question after question of people essentially asking for hand holding/TA service.

I stopped answering questions for that reason because I felt like I was only helping one person at a time instead of doing the community a service.


I completely agree, but on the other hand there's another problem as a corollary here. Stack overflow's knowledge database is quite immense. And it's a fraction of the knowledge that's available on the internet. Whenever I get stuck on a technical type issue it can usually be solved in a matter of seconds of searching. And I mean that even applies to really quite esoteric things. Want to have a discussion about converting reflection calls into cached and strongly typed delegates when the types involved are only known at runtime, and how to most effectively optimize this? Yip, there's a great discussion on SO about it.

So when I run into a isolatable technical problem that I can't find a solution to, it's incredibly obscure and incredibly esoteric. So you end up with this sort of dichotomy where it becomes more and more difficult to formulate 'good' questions. It's either somebody asking something that's been asked already, or could otherwise be found in a few seconds of duck-duck-going (damn.. that really doesn't roll off the 'tongue' as well as googling, does it?) or something so incredibly obscure that you'd be better off on a specialized outlet than on a general purpose one like Stack Overflow.


>doesn't roll off the 'tongue' as well

I use DDG's bang codes extensively, almost more than DDG itself (!yt !gi !so etc.), so I would have almost suggested duck-banging.


Stack Overflow needs some type of beginner area. I should have the ability to choose to exclude the beginner area from my Google and Stack Overflow searches.


This used to be a common feature of the type of forums that predated SO... For example, https://www.gamedev.net/forums/forum/71-for-beginners/


I feel your pain. I'm a very early user of the site (3 digit user id from when it was initially a closed beta) and used to answer questions regularly in my specific area of expertise. But the torrent of low quality questions from users who severely lack any fundamental knowledge in their subject area became too much.

I gradually drifted away from participating and imparting my knowledge. I'm not going to spend time explaining the basics to users (who often show very little gratitude or appreciation) and cajoling them to provide other information that might help me solve their problems.

It's a damned shame because the idea of SO is really good, but the site is overrun by vampires and I'm all out of stakes and garlic.


The biggest problems in my opinion are the drive-by downvotes. If you're not willing to fix the problem, you should not have the right to engage.

Downvotes should be tied to some sort of criterion that the asker/answerer can meet, like in a code review. If you get downvoted, you should have the ability to notify the downvoter "alright, I fixed the issue you had with my question/answer", and get the downvote undone. If the downvoter doesn't engage, undo the downvote automatically after a certain period. This process should be completely public, and have a log/history that everyone can see.

Same with flagging as duplicate. As the asker you should have the right to defend yourself against overzealous flagging, and be able to let the mods know why some other question is not actually a duplicate. Flagging as duplicate should be phrased as a question to the asker: Hey, did you see this question? Does this answer your question? And the asker should then be the one to decide whether or not it does.


At least force the downvoter to categorize their reason from a dropdown (e.g. slashdot), with an optional line of description. Hacker News could benefit from that too.


As a recent user who now has mod status (500+ reputation), I find moderators don't get any recognition really maybe my perspective is skewed. We talk about how unfriendly SO is, but moderators do keep the quality of SO in check to some degree, even at the cost of "marking it as duplicate" among other things. Its almost like stackoverflow has the same issues as subreddit moderators, perhaps they could learn a thing or two here? I've had to mod my own subreddits as well

I know recently stackoverflow has started to push fake posts under the "review queue" to gauge if you are actually moderating correctly.

I still get frustrated as a user asking a question on stackoverflow. I have had my share of questions marked as duplicates. I tried arguing and fixing the wording of it after the fact, it still is downvoted (-1) and still marked as duplicate.


Moderation is naturally a recognition-less job - If you do it right, nobody knows you've done anything at all

The problem comes in when others are doing the moderation in a negative way, because the good bar is set at "can't see what I did" every moderator gets lumped in with the bad moderators who dupe and close and offtopic everything for internet rep points

If it's recognition you're after being a SO or subreddit mod is not the way to get it


Wait, so SO is creating trick posts to find out if their completely uncompensated moderators are doing their job? You'd immediately lose me as a moderator when that happened.


As a new moderator (as of 2 months ago) they threw in about 20% trick posts to see if I was moderating correctly. They told me when I failed and passed them.

Example, on June 2018. https://i.imgur.com/YIVXX87.png


> ...moderators will remove offending content and send a warning... > ...moderators will impose a temporary suspension... > ...moderators will expel people...

I'm sure all of this helps the mods to deal with naughty users, but I think SO really has 2 big issuers:

1. Crappy, zero-effort, badly worded, badly explained questions 2. Crappy moderators

The first one seems to be a solved problem - 9 times out of 10 if I see a question like this appear on SO it is flagged within seconds.

The seconds one has been pervasive for years, and is a much harder problem to solve. Mods flagging unique questions as duplicates is something I've experienced far too many times - and often as soon as one mod hasn't read the question and flagged it, other mods see the flag, then don't bother to read the question and flag it.

I think there should actually be an easier way to flag poor decisions by moderators (to flag... well, the flags!), and I think there should be a similar 3-stage disciplinary system (warning, suspension, expulsion) for mods that repeatedly take shortcuts or make crappy decisions.


Best of luck to the SO team trying to improve the culture of its users. I hope they succeed.


Yeah, good luck to them but I closed my 15+ accounts (yeah, you have to create a different account per topic), many of which had 4 figure ratings going back years, because of this pointless (to me) chasing of new users and bringing in "be nice" type rules. I spent hours moderating and commenting as well as answering but it seems like loads of other long-time users just gave up due to the waves of "plz to give me teh code" muppets.


I don't mind this one: the 'stuff you commonly see and demonstrations of better ways to handle things' is a little more consutructive than what I was expecting.


I notice that mediawiki development also has a code of conduct expectation. Is this following that trend, or is the Stack Overflow code of conduct different?


It's funny how examples of discouraged posts are clear and concise while their alternatives are verbose and harder to understand.


Not being an asshole often requires using a few extra words. It's worth it.


A turd in a candy wrapper is still a turd.


Beating around the bush to say somebody is doing something dumb without hurting their feelings takes extra effort, and lessens the impact, unfortunately.




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