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    This is fantastic. I’ve been pretty vocal about this on twitter, largely along side @aprilwensel / @compassioncode, I love and use SO all the time, but it definitely isn’t a friendly place. My experiences contributing rather than consuming have been disappointing enough that I likely wouldn’t ever do it again if things didn’t change.

    Take this example: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/10967795/directinput8-enumdevices-sometimes-painfully-slow/40449680#40449680

    I posted this answer to this extremely obscure DirectX issue. This was literally the only result on google for the keywords I was searching. (Along with those stupid aggregator sites that just copy the content from SO…) I was a new account and could not post a comment on the question, only an answer. My answer is not an answer, it’s merely that I have the same problem and here’s what I’ve learned, and I made that known. The person that asked the question replied to my answer with “Very interesting! Thanks! […] It’s good to know I’m not the only one it affects!”. I GOT 3 PEOPLE ATTEMPTING TO DELETE MY ANSWER. How dare I try to contribute something useful? Better delete it for not actually answering the question! Thankfully I was able to respond to the deletions and keep it. Now it seems like someone else responded with a similar “I’m getting this too, but haven’t solved it” answer, and I’m glad they did because it’s starting to piece together this problem.

    That sucked, and made me jaded towards contributing.

    Another example is: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3240633/web-based-vnc-client No it’s not programming, but it was like the first result for web based vnc client. It has like 31 votes, the answer has 23. It’s obviously a useful post. Yet it’s closed as off topic. It seems like content people want to see based on the upvotes. Now it’s just frozen in time with outdated content, and that sucks. Yes there’s other sites where this is better suited, I’d argue that a VNC client is primarily a developer tool though. I’d be surprised if developers/IT in some form make up less than say 70% of people that use VNC. You can ask questions about other developer tools like vim, emacs or MSVC on SO.

    For the duplication issue what happens currently is if the question is identified as a duplicate, the question is closed with a message that feels like “Hmfp, RTFM, Why didn’t you search, this is a duplicate of this other question, use your eyes.” What should happen instead is, A: Don’t close the question. B: Link it as a possible duplicate of the other question. C: Post a message like, “We suspect that this question is a duplicate of this one and have associated it with the other question. If you believe this is incorrect then [click here] to revert this.” Then improve the flow for people ending up on this question to funnel them to the parent question, while still letting people answer this one, and better show the list of duplicate questions in the parent (depending on how well they can do SEO with this, obviously linking to a bunch of essentially dead/duplicate questions wouldn’t be great on the SEO side.)

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      I gave up on SO for similar reasons - the mods seemed to care less about having a useful site than enforcing the ‘rules’.

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        Even before the unfriendliness and mod absurdity, or at least before complaining about it got popular, I haven’t had very good experience with using SO for hard problems like the one you answered. I don’t think SO’s system is well-designed for attracting people capable of offering insight on such questions, or surfacing those types of questions to them when they do happen to show up and browse. It seems more like a system where newbies who are missing semicolons get their advice in ~10 seconds, while problems hard enough to stump experienced devs for hours or more get crickets.

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        Too many people experience Stack Overflow¹ as a hostile or elitist place, especially newer coders, women, people of color, and others in marginalized groups.

        Could anyone explain how this works? I can understand how new coders get treated worse but how do the others? In my personal experience I almost always don’t know the gender of the person posting and I can’t ever remember knowing the skin color.

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          I really like Stack Overflow.

          Based on anecdotes and internet comments I feel like I joined the site just as it was becoming more “difficult to get into” and “difficult to earn reputation on” and certainly before it became particularly “aggressive” with duplicates and low-quality questions. I’ve also had quite a bit of luck with silly questions getting a good number of upvotes (and I’ll even go as far as to say that they aren’t good questions if I’m honest). That’s all to say that I very well don’t really understand what new users go through nowadays.

          It makes me sad when someone get downvoted for posting a duplicate. We should better surface them in the posting flow, but it’s not reasonable to expect askers to find dupes consistently. Users aren’t “too lazy” to search; searching takes less work than posting.

          One trope that grinds my gears though is the “Stack Overflow closes everything as a duplicate”. I don’t really see it. A lot of people won’t bother searching and I do think that searching for a duplicate is more work than just posting a new question, especially when someone new to programming doesn’t know all the weird terminology.

          And little makes me sadder than comments on answers saying, “Don’t answer questions like this – it encourages them.” Now, some questions are off-topic. (I’m genuinely sorry, but we simply can’t explain how a glass pitcher can smash through a brick wall with no apparent injuries; we are a programming site.) But it’s totally cool to answer questions without giving a grilled poop sandwich about exactly what’s allowed. It’s fine to volunteer in one way without being expected to read and enforce every rule and meta discussion since forever.

          I’ll be the first to admit that I was on this bandwagon for a brief bit of time. A lot of questions posted to the site from users with 1 reputation (a sign they’re new) are an error message asking “why?” and I felt (and still feel?) that rewarding that sort of behaviour in a learner does them a disservice. I’d love to hear folks’ thoughts on this: what’s the best way of answering questions online without a million comments back-and-forth (something that SO doesn’t really facilitate)?


          I’ll just plug the link hidden at the bottom of the article again: Stack Overflow Inclusion Project

          We’re looking for volunteers to share their experiences in chat with us and help us prioritize what to work on first. Whether you’re an active user, or someone who isn’t comfortable participating, if you’d like to help, please fill out this one-minute survey.

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            Very nice! It addresses a lot of the problems outlined in https://medium.com/@Aprilw/suffering-on-stack-overflow-c46414a34a52

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              I feel like the site is heavily biased towards the mods and high-karma users, with active disdain for what the n00bs want. Just a small, harmless example: posts shouldn’t say hello, which they justify as extraneous, and they don’t want to waste their time reading “hello”. But you know what else is extraneous? Usernames. Karma. Yet they prominently display that everywhere, because I guess it makes the high-karma users feel better?

              They’re clearly smart enough to write the regex to strip it out, but not smart enough to realize they could leave it in the question text but extract the inner message for the preview window? No, that’s a huge blind spot. Salutations must go. Everything must cater to Mr. Atwood & Mr. Skeet, always.

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                TL:DR It’s time to make stackoverflow more PC.