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    Honest question, if not Stack Overflow, where to get help from? Sometimes I don’t have to post anything, the existing questions already solve my problem. I can’t think of any other community where I can get help from. Reddit works sometimes, but not always. Related IRCs work, but get lost in other noise. So, where?

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      That email is from the openbsd-misc mailing list. Lots of open source projects have their own lists where you can get help. C++ people still use usenet (comp.lang.c++).

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        From my experience (not talking about OpenBSD), a lot of those mailing lists don’t provide a user/developer support role, and are often far more toxic than StackOverflow.

        and in a lot of cases, mails or posts simply go unanswered in dedicated project support channels.

        You can say what you want about StackOverflow, and a lot of the problems mentioned here and in other discussions are real and serious problems, but they still have a huge body of useful information for a lot of problems people encounter.

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          Usually a busy-ish open source project will have several mailing list channels. One is typically dev’s only chatting about patches and the like, one is for announcements only and one is for users to chit chat.

          Make sure you choose the right one. If it’s “How do you do this?” type questions always go to the user one.

          If it’s a “I think there is a bug in…” make sure you have a good repeatable shortest possible test case in hand and then try the devs list.

          Even better than a nice neat repeatable test case, is a nice neat repeatable test case and a (small) patch off the mainline that fixes it.

          If you say something like, “Your code is crap. It doesn’t work in my companies million lines of proprietary spaghetti which you can’t look at”… Yup. Count yourself lucky if your question goes unanswered. Sometimes the toxins are there to kill stupid.

          Always show some signs that you have, indeed, Read The Fine Manual, such as exists and maybe the unit tests for the functionality you using.

          I have pretty much near 99% success rate in getting excellent answers from every open source mailling list I have interacted with.

          Be prepared to read code, some of the best answers come in the form, “Ah, I think that’s handled somewhere such and such a file… Have a look at the comments and the test cases for function …”

          Be prepared for the answer to be, yup, it’s fixed in version x.y

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            That all sounds like a lot of mental load to get a quick answer that’s blocking my work.

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              He who asks low (or no) effort questions should expect low (or no) effort answers.

              However, friction and entropy exist in everything so that should be…

              He who asks low (or no) effort questions should expect very low effort answers if they’re lucky, snarks if they aren’t.

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        Stack Overflow is often references more than official documentation, and it’s way way better than what we previously had: Xperts Exchange (which had the answers at the bottom, but was setup so it looked like you had to pay to see them).

        They might have their issues, but I still have found the Stack Exchange sites really useful. Until I read this post, I wasn’t even aware of the massive deletion problem. I don’t think any of my posts have been deleted, but there’s no way to know for sure.

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        Stack overflow has been a lot of help to me but I often feel worried about submitting questions there, especially if they are beginner questions. I have found the forums of whatever tool I am using to be much more friendly and offers a medium to discuss the question without it having to have 1 clear correct answer.

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          It’s got so bad I’m using a firefox plugin “duck duck go hide unwanted results” to hide stack overflow results.

          So many times the exact question I’m seeking the answer to has been “close by mod for reason….”

          My search life has definitely taken a turn for the better since I installed that plugin.

          I feel less irritated when I search for the answer to a technical question.

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            I’ve been a member of SO since public beta, and have just under 30K rep.

            My experience is considerably different. Looking through my deleted items, the ones that weren’t deleted by myself were deleted because the enclosing Q was deleted, and I agreed with every deletion I looked at.

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              Depends on how you use it, and whether you are lucky enough to always take the discussions that are too complex or novel for StackOverflow off the platform right away, or not make them there in the first place. (E.g., effectively, depends on how much trust you put into the platform.)

              As I mentioned on reddit, most of the stuff that got deleted for me are actually my own questions, quite disproportionately, where I’ve spent considerate time on doing the research, and where the answer is non-obvious.

              If your question doesn’t meet metrics, the StackOverflow company will automatically remove it without any human intervention whatsoever, and block your own access from it, until/unless you have 10k. Is that really fair, after you’ve spent several hours doing the research and formulating a clear-enough question, which is so clear noone has even bothered to provide an incomplete and misunderstood answer for it? There’s really no reason for this.

              The toxic part is that when you bring up these kinds of things on meta, they school you into not posting questions that “don’t belong” in the first place, and your meta questions themselves quickly gain -15 downvotes (not -15 rep, but -15 actual downvotes, within a day or two), and get automatically deleted promptly, so, the next person wouldn’t even have anything to refer to (and neither will you have the text in case you wanted to repost elsewhere).

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                If your question doesn’t meet metrics, the StackOverflow company will automatically remove it without any human intervention whatsoever, and block your own access from it, until/unless you have 10k.

                I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you elaborate on this?

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                  Go to /help/privileges, then the 10k link on StackOverflow to /help/privileges/moderator-tools has the following text:

                  SO: You also have a new search operator available to find your own deleted posts: deleted:1.

                  The reddit discussion has a link to the criteria for automatic deletion; in my case, the following seems to have been triggered a number of times:

                  SO: The system will automatically delete unlocked, unanswered questions on main (non-meta) sites with score of zero (or one, if the owner is deleted), fewer than 1.5 views per day on average, and fewer than two comments that are at least 365 days old. (RemoveAbandonedQuestions)

                  Basically, when you make that comment that the question is useless, you’re making sure it wouldn’t actually be deleted, unlike a question that’s simply ahead of its time. Duh!

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                I still don’t understand how I’m supposed to get ‘rep’ to upvote something, and I’ve never had the time to understand their internet points system to do so. I’ve been ‘using’ stackoverflow since it came out to beat expertsexchange and usenet, etc. But yea I probably have like 1 rep. I understand why they hold voting, but it always makes me sad when I want to upvote a good answer or downvote a terribly wrong one and I can’t. No idea what the route is from user to community member and no desire to read up on it… which maybe makes me not a community member. :)

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                  It’s as simple as just asking and answering questions. I think just asking a single question and accepting an answer gets you enough rep to vote.

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                    I also have had semi-decent (if small) success editing questions for clarity. It got me far enough to get upvote/downvote privileges.

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                      They require a minimum of 15 rep to upvote, and 125 to downvote, see /help/privileges on each of their sites.

                      Getting 15 rep is, like, really easy — you get 5 rep when your question gets +1, and 10 rep when your answer gets +1. Basically, all it takes is a single question and answer that someone does a +1 for, and you can upvote. (And you can even ask and answer your own question.)

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                        Interesting about that last one, knowing that that might’ve added 10-100 questions to stack overflow, if I’d taken the time to do it. Good to know. I think I have a complex about asking questions online in asynchronous forums. Chances are if I don’t know the answer, I’d rather keep looking than take the time to write it down somewhere and then wait. I’ll usually jump on IRC (or slack or discord these days) if the question is so pressing. I’d have to be in really dire straits to post and wait, it would feel almost like praying for an answer. :) (even tho 9 times out of 10 once I’ve worded the question I’m closer to a solution anyway… like I said I have a complex)

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                          You assume that it takes time to get an answer on StackOverflow. IME, very often for the more popular topics, the answer often appears right away within a couple of minutes. Folks race each other to answer first. :-)

                          (Of course, it highly depends on the tag.)

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                            the answer often appears right away within a couple of minutes.

                            Only if your question is something every mildly experienced programmer would know. As soon as you start asking things a little harder than you are often left without an answer.

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                              Yeah I think I was molded in the era of web 1.0 responsiveness (think perl monks) and it’s probably cost me a bit. Not to mention whatever the false bravado/fear of showing ignorance that leads me to not ask enough questions in general.

                              Duly noted though, thanks!

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                      This is a problem with any score-keeping or “gamification” mechanism online.

                      • You often forget the fun part and take the scoreboard to measure who’s the better person. Until you realize it does not matter. It never mattered anywhere. You see life is full of scoreboards like that, starting out from the school. Lot of people want something from you and they scapegoat it into scoreboards.
                      • The score-keeping is always disjointed from what is desired (good attendance to discussion, good articles, great questions/answers)
                      • There are people who love playing, and they take the optimal route to gain score. This often means that they “drop the payload” that the whole score-keeping system was supposed to support.

                      Though I honestly wonder where people go to talk once reddit/lobsters has been explored..

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                        Though I honestly wonder where people go to talk once reddit/lobsters has been explored..


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                          When I joined reddit years ago I cared about my karma count so much and I would delete comments when they start to get downvoted so I wouldn’t lose my karma but after hitting about 10k I stopped caring and now I can say what I want and stand behind it even if it’s not a popular opinion.

                          Reminds me of that first episode of black mirror season 3. Only when you ignore scoring systems can you truly be free.

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                          Meta: Should be tagged rant. Users with 10 karma can hit “suggest” under the story and add tags.

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                            I never understood StackOverflow or why people would want to hang there. All I see is that bad questions get bad advice, and good questions are deleted.

                            There are two types of questions, ones that can be answered by reading the documentation, or the code, and the ones more conceptual, where a higher level discussion is more useful. For the former, StackOverflow is useless. People just give bad advice to people who have not read the documentation. And StackOverflow is actively hostile against the latter.

                            I wish there was a Safari extenstion to block results from Google, like there seems to be for Chrome and Firefox.

                            The other Stack Exchange sites are just as bad, or worse. I sometimes visit the photography website. It’s just pointless drivel about whether something is or is not photography-related, then the questions are closed because they don’t have a single, definite answer (even though the person asking is interested in various options). Technical questions are derided against because you need artistic vision, not technical excellency, and the moderators enforcing this are on a power trip.

                            It’s a waste of time.

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                              Effectively, every 10th answer or question just gets wiped out

                              That’s the thing that most caught my attention. I mean, that seems like a good rate, actually. About 70% of everything I do or say is garbage, I dream about having only 10% of it being thrown away.

                              That being said, I do agree that’s weird that you can’t see your own deleted stuff. Should be possible, if only so you could post if somewhere else, if it’s not fit for stackoverflow, which has a admittedly quite narrow profile for content.

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                                I didn’t realize this was happening. I have a tons of old stuff up there, some still unanswered. I didn’t think anything I’ve put up has been deleted, but unless I run a scraper regularly, I wouldn’t know would I?