Disclosure: Card-carrying member of the "questions police".
Personally, I tend not to post because of the stress of having a question policed. You guys should have a full fledged StackExchange site (not Meta) where people can ask which other SE site to post their question on. I'm not kidding. Because of the complexity/sophistication of the software, the rules on SE/SO are far more baroque than the rules on Usenet ever could have been.
On the other hand, I've noticed a couple of companies using their own Stack Overflow install for their support forums, and I'm sure that could work pretty well. It's not a question of the software, just whether or not the community is right, really. SO's has ended up with too many volunteer bureaucrats, I think, and to make things worse there's even a meta site where they can gather and make up more rules for people to follow. You say organised, I say ossified... well, let's call the whole thing off. I stopped posting on SO after my last experience.
I don't expect anybody to care about one person leaving (and nor should they!) but if enough individual people leave, then I guess eventually nobody will be left.
I had the same experience awhile back, it was like a pedantry competition. Ok, so perhaps I didn't word the question perfectly, but I did provide a lot of information and examples (spent like 15m just making the post itself). They need to realize that the people who're going to most frequently ask questions are most likely not actually experts in that subject, or else they wouldn't be posting.
> and to make things worse there's even a meta site where they can gather and make up more rules for people to follow
If you think that's bad, did you know that they now have chat? When I tried to delete my aforementioned question, it wouldn't let me, so I went into chat to see if I could find a mod to ask for help. Well guess what... there I found a group of mods/powerusers actively deriding me behind my back. Once I let my presence be known, they quickly shut up, like a bunch of school girls caught gossiping in class. I must say, that left a horrible taste in my mouth, to think that they get their kicks making fun of users behind their backs.
I've come to view SO as more of a crowd-sourced FAQ site rather then a direct support site.
In that capacity it does a great job. But it either leaves a large hole in support when all non-generalizable questions are shoved into the bin, or it forces the organisation to split the community by having an alternate forum/chat/list where such questions are welcome.
I needed to ask a much better question to get the kind of responses that I wanted though.
Turns out, there's a site for that: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/site-recommen...
It's kind of off putting - I don't want to ask questions in some of the other communities because I just can't be arsed to deal with moderator roulette.
I'm not sure that's the effect that SO wants to be having.
I'd prefer my question being pushed into a "pending/WIP" state where they might be segregated from search visibility instead of having it become closed and thus unappealing to responders.
> How am I supposed to know that I shouldn't be posting to SuperUser or Serverfault if it happens to be a home networking issue?
A Linux question -
Unix and Linux?
(Server Fault)? (Stack Overflow?)
While we expect programmers to RTFM the rest of the SE network is aimed at not so technical people.
What?! There are no "built up social conventions" on SO, those were destroyed early on. There is only a toxic culture formed by the fiat of the great hypocrite Jeff Atwood, whose mouth championed "the community" while his jackboots curbstomped anything the community did that wasn't simple or mediocre enough for him to appreciate.
On the other hand, I find the the "questions police" are sometimes a little too hasty to shut down actually useful questions, that may stray a bit into the grey zone or may not be phrased as well as possible. I see a lot of new users posting questions that aren't quite clear enough, and then rather than commenting in a way that will help them clarify the question, people just downvote, vote to close, and move on.
There are some people who are just hopeless; no matter how much guidance on asking good questions you provide, they won't get it. But you shouldn't assume that when someone asks a question, and just vote to close. It can really hurt to have a question downvoted or closed, and put someone off the site. I think those tools should be used only for blatantly abusive or off topic questions, or users who really don't get it and keep asking the same things over and over again.
That said, if you're the conscientious sort and do listen to the advice given for improving your question... It'll get reviewed and possibly re-opened. If nothing else, you'll at least have learned something you can put to use the next time you ask a question.
Something else worth considering... Most of the moderation is done by (or at very least instigated by) the same folks answering the questions. So if you're active in a bit more of a niche tag (for instance, [firefox]) and you've done your homework to where the folks answering can actually help you... You're a lot more likely to get help.
Here's an example: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/19964962/html5-filesystem... It wasn't the best phrased question, but it was reasonably obvious what he was asking. Instead of trying to help him phrase his question better, or actually answer him, several people told him to "just Google it" or linked to tutorials that didn't answer his question while downvoting him and voting to close. Eventually, after I actually answered the question (which did take a little research, the only documentation I found was the spec which took a little parsing through to figure out how it was supposed to work), he got fed up with the number of downvotes and deleted the question.
This isn't an isolated example, it happens a lot. I've had lots of cases where there was a question that wasn't perfectly clear but if you read between the lines a bit you could figure out what they were asking, where lots of people just voted to close, wasting the time I took to actually try to answer the question correctly. It's harmful to the community.
And as you can see in this thread, there are a lot of people who are scared off by this behavior; who don't use SO because of the treatment they got. I definitely understand people's frustration with people who ask poor questions, but part of the point of SO is that you can, through commenting and editing, improve questions, and far too many people are too happy to just make a snide comment and downvote rather than actually trying to help.
(heh, funny that I defaulted to using SO-style "@Shog9" when discussing the topic on HN; it's interesting how I fall into that habit when replying to someone I recognize from SO, despite being on HN at the time)
As you say, there's a bit of a "man with a hammer" problem with folks who've gained access to the tooling without really learning how (or when) to use it. I'm working on some better guidance there, but it can be hard to redirect that impulse. If you have any good suggestions, don't hesitate to ping me in The Tavern (http://chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/rooms/89/tavern-on-the-me...). "@Shog9" should actually do something there ;-)
I vastly prefer basically any other format (yes, even phpBB) to SO because of the mod squads.
If you want to ask answerable technical questions (I'm trying to do X, here's the code sample, it's crashing here or producing this output), Stack Overflow is great.
If you want to ask a vague "which framework should I use for this project" or "tabs vs. spaces" question, Stack Overflow is not the place to go, and that's by choice.
I do sometimes have a problem with people who are over-eager to downvote or close questions which aren't phrased perfectly from the beginning, but overall, if you actually have an objective, answerable technical question to ask, it can be a good place to go.
It's become acknowledged with the professional software developers I've met (in real life) that SO has become fine for elementary "how do I X" (where X is a popular subject and has contributors on SO), but for anything more profound, SO is usually useless (often wrong, even).
I am a professional software developer in real life, and I use SO to ask questions occasionally, and answer questions often. There are definitely plenty of cases where it is much more useful than just elementary "how do I X"; there are lots of cases of real, difficult questions being asked and answered, or lots more of people who are experienced developers but new on a particular language or framework or library asking questions about that. It's also quite good at it's mission, of providing fairly good answers for when you Google a question, rather than a forum post where you have to go to the third page to find a comment that almost, but not quite, actually answers the question, and then two pages further to find the clarification that makes it all actually work.
So, you have to use it for the right kinds of questions, but I find that it really does work fairly well for those. The two main problems are that there is a somewhat low signal to noise ratio, as on any popular forum (lots of beginners asking those basic questions that you mention, lots of people asking questions poorly or unclearly, lots of people jumping on people for not quite asking their question perfectly at first), and that people are a little hasty to close imperfect questions without giving them time to be fleshed out into good questions.
The moderation, voting, and closing of questions is supposed to help with that signal to noise ratio, but I'm a bit skeptical, as it seems to be suppressing a little too much signal, and letting through a little too much noise.
Here's an example of StackOverflow working for a fairly deep question, about the maximal possible asymptotic slowdown due to purely functional programming: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1990464/efficiency-of-pur...
Now, we saw the problems that I described at first (the question was a little bit vague, a lot of people jumped in with hasty and incorrect answers, and it was closed for being too vague), but since the system allows editing, voting, and re-opening of questions, those problems were fixed.
For a lot of questions, if you Google for a question and find it on StackOverflow, there's a very good chance it will be answered correctly. If you find a question that has no answer or was answered incorrectly, you are able to correct it or answer it yourself.
I guess what I'm saying is that StackOverflow isn't perfect, but you really shouldn't write it off based on a single bad experience. Just keep in mind what it is for; questions that are answerable, not just subjective or bikeshed questions, and you need to do at least some effort to ask a good question that has enough detail to be possible to answer.
I don't particularly care that nuanced qualitative questions can lead to debate. Most things that are interesting and matter can be debated; that's why they are interesting- because there are different perspectives and education and experience can provide the nuance to help with choice. That's why I consider /r/programming a better place to find fruitful discussion than StackOverflow...
Anyway. Hope that helps you in your thought processes.
There is also http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=65767
But there is (now) a better SE site for this: http://cs.stackexchange.com/
Different shape and color guess I makes it, but they should mention it in the guidelines.
It's a good thing I think that they are spending time helping people. It is developers within Mozilla who are answering the questions so hopefully they will take notice of what is confusing and troublesome for people and use it to fix the concentrated areas.
"A note on the dino"
"The classic Mozilla dino head logo served as a symbol of the organization since our earliest days, but has now been retired from active duty. While the brand has evolved, the dino had not been updated in quite some time and is no longer the best representation of who we are today. He spends his days traveling, reading and still looking out for the interests of users everywhere (some habits die hard). We wish him well in his future endeavors. Please use the Mozilla wordmark on all properties and materials instead." - https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/styleguide/identity/mozilla/br...
And exactly, we both want to help out and also identify what developers have issues with.
Yahoo, Myspace, and Digg all used to be pretty big.
Well done! I rarely have to report some problems with Firefox and trying to remember my bugzilla password is a major PITA. Most of the time I had to reset it. OTOH, I'm using SO almost daily. I just hope they will be able to really monitor it and not get overwhelmed (I have no idea how many questions are opened for those tags daily, hopefully not too many).
The goal here is to encourage development questions - folks writing code targeted at HTML5 or Firefox OS.
Not that bug reports never draw on problems identified in development questions of course... But don't throw away your Bugzilla account just yet.
They'd better damn well! [html5-apps] is a horrible, horrible thing that meets many of the definitions of a "meta" tag.