Why I refuse to use stackoverflow


#1

Warning: much ranting ahead

I never signed up on stackoverflow but I did try and help answer a question once. The web page blocked me saying I didn't have enough reputation as a new user so I gave up. Every time I learn more about stackoverflow I dislike it even more.

Here is one article about how someone was banned for asking "too many questions"

http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/1059804-objective-c-stack-overflow-alternatives/

Also they deliberately block certain even legitimate questions sating they are not a "good fit" for their site.


rsync-pros-and-cons

The above question wrongly closed off. It was a valid question but staff closed it.

I am finding more and more examples like this. I'm compiling a list of "obviously mismanaged" threads on their site which I might add to this thread at a later point.

I suppose you are wondering why I care and why not just vote with my feet and go elsewhere. Well I am looking at doing just that. However its amazing how high their site comes up in Google search rankings. When I am googling an answer to some technical question I often land on a stackoverflow page only to find a non-answer of why stackoverflow feels that this question is not a good fit and the thread closed from further comments. I thought Google was supposed to rank on actual content these days rather than some apparent "grandfathered" status.

Stackoverflow, I down vote you for ensuring bad content by putting Google ranking ahead of providing a useful service.

Anyone know of any good alternatives to the stackoverflow, stackexchange, serverfault totalitarian state of websites I would like to know. It doesn't have to have as strong of a community, just sensible management and not an abandoned project.


#2

More evidence:

Seems like its not just me after all. I'm glad to see I'm not hallucinating.


#3

Here is another surprisingly well written post with some good quality links.

http://nedbatchelder.com/blog/201207/bad_answers_on_stack_overflow.html

I like this article as it goes beyond just being a rant but goes to the heart of the problem of why technology and style of moderation can lead to intrinsically bad communities.


#4

Here's one I read recently that gave me food for thought:
http://michael.richter.name/blogs/why-i-no-longer-contribute-to-stackoverflow/

I frequent SO from time to time, but what the OP writes is completely true.
The system is set up so that you get much more rep for answering quick fix questions which take no time, than a long thought out answer.
That's a shame.

You also see quite a lot of people on SO with problems that would be better solved by coming to a forum such as this one.

Also be sure to check out the post that the author links to towards the end of the article.
He cites it as funny and informative, but draws attention to the fact that it upset the powers that be and was thus locked.


#5

Because posts can be edited by members, I assume some of these posts get locked so that no one can come along and ruin them, which seems a good thing to me. I wonder if that note is just a default one that doesn't really reflect the reason the post was closed. Kind of weird, anyhow.

I do find SO pretty frustrating at times, but it certainly has grown into a useful resource, despite its faults.

Here, of course. smiley


#6

Yeah, I have seen a lot of stock moderator responses that dont really fit. It must be really frustrating for people who have their threads closed for vague sounding reasons. It just reinforces the notion that dirty forum politics was the reason.


#7

Wow, this thread is very insightful. I didn't realise that SO was that political. From that thread it says that members can become moderator status simply by receiving a certain number of upvotes. Sounds like "power mongering", plain and simple.


#8

I have noticed a lot of stack overflow questions coming up in search results where I have the same or a similar question.

I don't think I have ever seen one where the post answered my question though. In the few cases where the OP did get an answer to their question the solution that worked for them didn't work for me because of slight differences between my question and theirs. Where my question was the same as the OP then no matter how many responses there are, none of them actually resolve the question.

I get the impression that they are more interested in high placement in search results and high post counts than they are in actually providing anything useful.


#9

I often find answers to how-to-code questions on SO, even if often I have to adapt it to my situation. But that's no problem .
What I have noticed is that over time it has become harder to find the correct solution in the midst of all answers , small replies to answers and quite heavily edited questions and answers (by the poster and by admins).
All critique on how they treat certain questions , moderation , ecc may well be true, but doesn't necessarily change the value of SO as a resource? It could of course have an impact on those that are part of the SO community .
I also tend to come across the "this question doesn't fit the FAQ format" closed threads. That's a pity, it would be nice if Google could filter those out. But SO isn't a forum like SPF is. It's a different format . It would be great if they could add a little piece to that message: "Why don't you go to www.sitepoint.com/forums and ask your question there?" wink


#10

Absolutely!
I know they won't do us any favours, but maybe we could pay them? :smile:

There have been a couple of times that I have been helping someone who has not been able to formulate the problem they were having in the correct words.
We started honing in on a solution in the comments, but SO starts telling us that the site is not a discussion forum, rather a Q&A site.
It also leaves no room for discussing good practice or different techniques.

Saying that, of course it is a great resource and I enjoy visiting the site, so my comments shouldn't be taken as complaints, merely as observations.


#11

Yeah, I understand that in spite of the moderation style you can sometimes find the answers you are looking for when you land there from a Google search.

One thing about SPF is that there is hardly any politics here and what little I've seen is from ordinary members and not moderators. (Actually it was only one member but I wont go there.)

I think a few of you pointed out and I agree is its an opportunity for SPF to shine in areas where SO does not. However I guess I assumed, perhaps mistakenly, that SPF restricted itself to web development and didn't venture into areas like server admin. If I am wrong about that I certainly have more questions I could ask here.

Basically I think the whole downvoting thing is a bad idea. Perhaps a way of designating a post as helpful may be good if used the right way.

I think one takeaway from looking at this whole subject is that the community is just as important as the forum technology, perhaps even more so. Trying to get one's question answered in a semi-hostile environment may actually create more problems than it solves. SPF has done well in providing a mostly friendly environment to ask questions.


#12

There is certainly a server forum here. smile

Basically I think the whole downvoting thing is a bad idea. Perhaps a way of designating a post as helpful may be good if used the right way.

Agreed. We are looking at a kind of thanks/approval button for posts, so stay tuned. smile

The problem with allowing too much upvoting/downvoting is that it can be—or inevitably will be—misused (as you see on all forums that allow it, including SO).


#13

Stack Overflow does rank high in the search results. They do have some very knowledgeable people over there. I have often found answers to my questions from reading answers there. What bothers me is that there are times when a question is asked and the topic is closed as not being constructive or whatever the terminology they use is. Seemingly legitimate questions are closed. I found the topic using a search engine because I had the same question and someone or a group of people decided it wasn't worthy of being answered. That is what bothers me most.

It did strike me as odd how StackOverflow got so popular so quickly in a very crowded niche. There are plenty of computer and web boards out there that also have knowledgeable people that have been around much longer. Perhaps it's the rep system that helped them get popular?

I'll take knowledge wherever I can find it. That said, I tend to avoid StackOverflow as much as possible.


#14

I know they won't do us any favours, but maybe we could pay them?
ya think they'd agree after they read this thread? smile


#15

At the time, it was a unique Q&A format where you could mark responses as answers and vote responses up or down. So yes, the reputation system played a big role. It didn't hurt that it was basically the first platform on the market that combined the Q&A format with a granular reputation system that incrementally granted privileges as your reputation points increased (basically, anybody could eventually become a moderator).

Unfortunately, its biggest weakness is that it is not a very good platform for facilitating discussions. Its second biggest weakness is the unbalanced reputation system. Its third biggest weakness is probably that anyone could become a moderator. It is, however, a very good platform for quick, simple, and straight-forward questions and answers.

Now that the novelty has worn off and its weaknesses have become somewhat obvious and well-known, I'm sure other platforms will rise and evolve by implementing some of the best things about the stack exchange platform. However, until another platform/site gains as large of an audience, I think we're kinda stuck with it as the big dog in the arena for now.


#16

I've had mostly positive experiences with Stack Overflow and so far all but one of my questions received well thought out and workable answers. It does seem to be getting cluttered with some dross recently, though, as if people desperately answer questions simply to get "reputation," but that never happens on the internet... wink


#17

No... it never happens :shifty: :lol:

My use of StackOverflow is minimal and always as a result of a Google search but I tend to leave almost immediately. It is not because I don't like it (I don't have an opinion on that) but most of the time because the problem shown may be similiar to mine but my own issue may have a twist that makes that answer invalid or hard to adapt to my needs


#18

Thanx for this thread. I'll call your rant and raise you. I've found stackoverflow to be one of the most obnoxious code help sites on the net -- a complete ego-ridden nanny operation with moderators running all over the place looking for rules to shut people down if their system doesn't do it first with its "reputation point" 'forced tag selection" and other species of pre-school supervision. Add to that their playing fast and loose with exploiting google rankings so half the search items on the first few pages are theirs. It appears there is active complaint about stackexchange and stackoverflow's manipulation of the rankings, but most were too technical for me to follow, which is why I reopened this thread. I was comforted to know someone else had the same complaints about 'stackoverblown' as me and found them to be a noxious and insulting bunch of nannies. In contrast, W3Schools is an incredibly helpful, relaxed place to get questions answered (if they can be) by patient skilled members and moderators. No constrictive, anal-retentive rules and attitude seems to be present. Indeed, I got my css question about a one-button toggle for radio buttons solved on my first stop there. And that was a problem on which I wasted oodles of time on stackoverflow and UX reading answers to other posters that were just a bunch of gobbledygook answers and philosophical arguments complete with with "what do you want to do that for?" and "don't you use checkboxes" and why it was "semantically incorrect", blah&vomit.

So I thank you for reassuring me I'm not alone in my opinion. Now I just wish google would provide a filter we could use to eliminate certain sites from our searches on a default basis. Maybe they do? I don't know, I'll have to go look.


#19

I know this is an old thread, but i want to say it anyway.

This thread is nothing more than a misunderstanding of what SO is. It is not a forum to have discussions, like the OP here wanted, and it is not actually a question and answer site. It is a Code Repository, a place where you can go to look up coding problems and find answers. This is the reason you are able to search Google and find a fix to almost any problem you run in too, and a good one at that. Questions and Answers should be formatted with this in mind.

The purpose is not to help you, but build the most complete solution repo in existence. Like their methods or not. It doesnt matter, they have achieved their goal and done a stellar job of it imho.

I'm not high up on SO. My 3yr old account only has about 2500 points. I am mostly a lurker and commenter.


#20

This is more or less true except the quality of answers is not high in many cases so it's good to use this solution repo but I think the information there should be taken with a grain of salt. And I agree with the others about the insane moderation politics. About 2 or 3 years ago I tried to be a SO member and posted a few answers. There was one question about differences between mysqli and PDO extensions in PHP and the top answer with an overwhelming majority of votes said that PDO's advantage is that it allows you to inject a db record straight into an object. So I promptly wrote a comment explaining that this information is not true because mysqli also has the same feature and linked to the PHP documentation where people could confirm this. My comment received a number of votes and people seemed to appreciate it but after a few days a moderator deleted my comment because he found it not relevant for some reason. I thought my comment was helpful because the top answer contained wrong information and was simply misleading. I suppose it would be too much hassle for the mods to try to correct a question page where the top answer is incorrect so it's much easier to simply get rid of the people trying to point that out. I don't think the moderators care about the quality of the answers - you will usually learn what most people think is the best answer, not what the best answer really is. As a result my contributions there ended very quickly.

SO is good for simple questions that have short and simple answers. But caution should be taken whether the experts there are really experts - sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't and the number of votes doesn't really help distinguish between them.