When StackOverflow Goes Bad

First off, I use StackOverflow a lot and find it really useful. Most of the time answers are useful and people are helpful. But you also have a small number of contributors that are complete dicks. And when that happens, StackOverflow gets ugly. For an example, take a look at this question:

How to work with “fifo” in C# .net?

How to work with “fifo” in C# .net? (is it possible in .net 3.5 in 4.0?)

First off the question is clear to anyone not being purposely obtuse. He/she wants to know what standard collection in C# implements a FIFO stack. And the answer is the Queue<> collection.

But what do we get?

  1. Closed by 5 people as not a real question. Really? This reminds me of immature teenagers looking for any excuse to exercise their authority by disallowing a question.
  2. Someone who said they need to implement it themselves. Trying to act superior with a generic useless answer (and displaying an utter lack of knowledge of the .NET API in the process).
  3. Several people who posted what a FIFO stack is. This is beyond lame as the person asking the question clearly knows what a FIFO stack is.
  4. And my favorite – one that fully answered the question, but added they needed more detail on the question to fully answer it. Kudos though for showing you are smart enough to understand the question, knowledgeable enough to answer it, and dickish enough to denigrate the questioner.

This puts me in mind of a dead on post about Hacker News comments:

most of the replies reinforced the notion that Hacker News readers are predominantly male know-it-alls and on the average, a bunch of snarky dicks.

When I see responses like this I don’t think, Oh My God, those commenters are clearly geniuses. What I think is these are people I would never want to work with – they’re either stupid or they’re focused on tearing others down to try and rise above them (and destined to consistently fail).

For a similar take – Stack exchange, moderators with OCD, and why some poor sap won’t be able to find a quick solution now.

Update: A request by a Stack Overflow moderator – he/she wants to close more than 50 questions/day. Totally out of control.


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15 Responses to When StackOverflow Goes Bad

  1. Hi David,
    Yeah I have seen similar discussions on stackoverflow and it does irk me too. Sometimes people simply want to leave an answer, so they write something generic and just move on. If you respond back to these responses, rest assured you aren’t going to get any answers.

  2. Hi! I really agree with you especially about the first remark… I was keen on stackoverflow, I used to ask and to answer,… but when those superiors hurry up to close my topics then they send me “you cannot post questions anymore and you are blocked by automatical filters” I really get mad!

  3. Jens: Why don’t you edit the question to make it more clear, upvote it, upvote the answer and ask for reopening the question?

    I thought the question was clear so why edit it? I did upvote the question and the correct answer.

  4. Got kicked off of their bike forum with no reasonable explanation or possibility of response.
    The only note said that my answers weren’t good enough, even though they had been up-voted.
    So, yes, the moderators seem to be a bunch of jerks, and I will never answer anything on any of their forums again.

  5. The member you show asking for more close votes is one I have also identified as being an obnoxious and abusive user. It’s unfortunate but elitism is hurting the Stack Overflow experience.

  6. I deleted by account shortly after creating it, decided it wasn’t worth my time and I guess now I’m just, and not by choice, a ‘leecher’ of stackoverflow. How ‘social’.

    Anyway the funnest thing was where my edits where rejected because two of them claimed it changed ‘too much’. And the other too claiming the addition or edit was ‘too small’.(or ‘too little’ I guess)

    I only look on stackoverflow for things that I find too trivial that I don’t border remembering them and if stackoverflow didn’t have such high search engine ratings could find elsewhere.

    I pity the people who actually do good stuff at stackoverflow for having to put up with the rest of them.

  7. From your description it is not at all apparent that #4 is being “dickish.” The poster may in fact have been asking an honest question because the simple answer seemed to be too simple an answer and the original question is, in fact, vague and certainly not clear that the person knows what a FIFO structure is or when to use one by merely using an acronym. Perhaps there was a tone in the response you are not conveying, but asking for more information shows consideration for the poster and an earnest desire to help.

    You are also being somewhat dishonest in not mentioning that it was closed with instructions to repost with a better formed question, and that three people responded with reasonable answers, one with links comparing different structures and a link to the msdn docs. Also worth noting, shortly after this post, the poster asked about about named pipes in the same manner.

  8. Hi Steve;

    I think where we fundamentally disagree is I think the question was fine as is. Yes the poster could have been more detailed and that would have made for a better question removing any ambiguity. But I think the question was clear as posed.

  9. The one specific type that bothers me most is the “search for it” lamebrains that also do the counter-intuitive timestamp checking for “necro posts”. It’s a catch-22 when you have those two types of mods on a board. If you necro a post you’re told to start your own topic, if you start your own topic they tell you to search for it. It’s a major disruption of information flow, and they’re not really protecting anyone from anything. What do they get from it? a couple hundred bytes from a database saved and a userbase that is wary of contributing unique inputs.

  10. I’ve had inconsistent experiences on StackExchange sites. I have found some to be casual, pleasant AND useful. Others are strict and intense but fair. And others… are exactly as you described, unfortunately.

    In one of the comments, MichaelB said:
    “my edits were rejected because two of them claimed it changed ‘too much’. And the other claimed the addition was ‘too small’”
    That happens to me sometimes. It is irritating, especially if the information you are editing is incorrect, based on cited facts! StackExchange has system rules about required minimum length for edits. Even when observing them, some SE moderators will reject edits as too small.

    Here’s something I’ve wondered about lately: Why is Google “outsourcing” some of its user support to StackOverflow? It is only for certain tags e.g. Google Apps Engine. Maybe I should ask on Meta SO? I am sure that would be well received ;o)

  11. @Dave Newton

    Google “fifo C#”. The stackoverflow question is now the top result(at least for me I know google screws with search results for different people)

    What was once “trivially searchable” is now all sorts of fucked up because of elitists on stackoverflow writing dickish answers and google’s heavy reliance on stackoverflow.

    Before stackoverflow invaded the search results when I wanted to know something like this the first link would almost always just tell me.

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