A Word About Stack Exchange / StackOverflow / ServerFault

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A WORD ABOUT STACKOVERFLOW / SERVERFAULT / STACKEXCHANGE

Constructive criticism article about popular Q & A platforms or someone might even say “Why they suck?”

stackoverflow.com logo

stackoverflow.com logo

I use above sites occasionally simply because they are almost always listed first in Google Search results, but many times I have to move on and find my answers somewhere else, or adapt answers for my needs.

serverfault.com-logo

serverfault.com logo

There are few issues in my opinion that simply do not captivate me enough to become a full active member at any of the above platforms.

VOTING SYSTEM

It has both good/positive and bad/negative side effects:

  • Obvious good aspect is that you can “trust” answers from respectable members more than from newly registered ones, or members with lower reputation.
  • However, on many occasions answers that were near the bottom were the actual spot-on for what I was looking for. Yet, they remained down simply because they missed enough votes to rise higher.

First answers tend to receive most up-votes, simply because they are answered first and have a solid amount of initial views. But, later on better answers may be posted, but they will need time to collect enough points to surpass the initial ones, which may never happen, because in the meantime those answers will receive new votes, too.

  • You just registered and want to add a comment (not an actual answer, but a contribution to it)? Sorry, you can’t do that.

You need to build some minimal reputation first to post comments, but you don’t need any reputation to post answers !? This is the major flaw of the system in my honest opinion that really sucks big time.

I was in countless situations to post a valid comments with additional information, sub-question etc. yet I was unable to do it. This requirement pushed me away even further not to use above platform(s) at all, closing my circle of missing reputation in the future.

If you “dare” to post a comment/follow-up/additional information to the posted question when you do not yet own the privilege of posting actual comments in the form of an Answer, you are risking that your contribution will be deleted.

For example:

ServerFault.com Deleted 'Comment' Answer

ServerFault.com Deleted ‘Comment’ Answer
(click to enlarge)

(Original poster though his issue was Google Chrome exclusive & WordPress related, when in fact, I discovered that it also affect Internet Explorer browsers family and other non-WordPress sites, as well)

Even if you have something valid to contribute with, such as the above information presented in the form of an Answer (since not enough reputation for Comments exists), it will be removed without a second though.

QUESTIONS

  • Questions are often marked for deletion if they are “too broad”, “too localized”, “too specific” or “not related” (to programming or server administration in these cases), which many of the users still find very legit and useful.
  • Question similar to others may be removed and marked as “duplicate”

This is one flawed policy from the very first look at it. Still, their service has grown too large, that this kind of filtering is in general understandable and much-needed practice to reduce frequency of questions without possibility of ever answering, including those that cannot be easily answered at all, without some serious work.

All that aside, when such questions arise and they receive a valid and proper attention from the community, they are left to live, but the red warning stays below from the moderating team (in effect, everyone’s happy). Unfortunately, many times questions that are indeed answered get permanently removed because of some strict policy, which is really plain wrong.

In practice, I found roughly 20% of the answers I was looking for from the questions such as above, either marked for removal as too broad, or “duplicate” where initial moderation failed to see and understand the fine nuances and differences between those, only later to be explained and “saved” by other community members.

closed as off topic” or “closed as not constructive” are the usual attributes you may frequently encounter, yet those questions are many times very helpful and up-voted by the community.

GOOGLE SEARCH TIPS

How to exclude answers from StackOverflow, StackExchange and ServerFault from Google Search results? If you cannot find the answer you are looking for and do not want to post a question there risking to be closed, removed, down-voted or in extreme cases even get yourself banned — you can perform a Google Search with exclusion operators like:

-stack
-stackexchange
-stackoverflow
-serverfault

and similar terms.

CONCLUSION

I still fail to see myself as a regular member at Stack- platforms. The system was initially created with good intentions, obviously, but in some cases it feels oppressive, and even promoting negative selection from time to time. Forums, for example, offer much more freedom, but they might lack the attractiveness that above platforms possess.

So, what could be the compromise solution? Something in between, a bit more liberal and freedom way to post and get to the much needed information.

 

Categories
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Comments


  1. comments

    5 Comments

    Add Your Comment
  2. 1. alejandramacadam

    I will right away grab your rss feed as I can not to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter
    service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me recognise so that I could subscribe.

    Thanks.

  3. 2. TehnoBlog

    Hi, try RSS Feed link:
    http://tehnoblog.org/feed/

  4. 3. Chuong

    You can simply do this to exclude all searches from Stackoverflow.com:

    -site:stackoverflow.com

  5. 4. TehnoBlog

    Hi, thanks, we have already added Google Search Tips in the article (look near the end).

  6. 5. jelabarre59

    Often times on their sites I really can’t figure out just *what* their criteria is for rejecting a question as “off topic”, etc. As an example, someone asked about how to “Check the fingerprint for the ECDSA key sent by the remote host” (I think that would be question 690855). It was CLOSED because, as their excuse went, “Questions on Server Fault must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment.” Hello??? If *anything* sounded like a situation you would encounter in a business-related environment, that would be one.
    It seems to me the self-important admins and “elite” of the StackOverflow sites like to close/invalidate/cancel threads merely because it flogs their own personal egos, and makes them feel all-powerful. Closing a thread that goes way off topic? Fine, that’s good forum administration. But from what I’ve seen, it seems like they feel 95% or more of the questions/answers/messages there are completely invalid. And every time I visit one of their pages found in a search, I see nothing that changes that impression.
    Perhaps if they feel that *everyone* visiting their site is wrong, perhaps *everyone* should stop frequenting it.
    (as for excluding their sites in your searches; it’s time we had the ability to pre-define blacklisted sites in our browsers’ search settings).

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