Why you should avoid Stack Overflow

It has been a long time since the last blog post. This has been caused by various reasons, but the most important has been the fact that life is so much better without a site like Stack Overflow.


Having written that, there has just been an outstandingly silly thread taking place on Meta Stack Overflow. It seems to be applying for the same type of stand-up comedy prize as so many other on this “wonderful” site.

In short, there was a new user asking a question on Stack Overflow. Then, there was a new user answering that and along the line, adding new information and further code to the answer as desired; so far so good, yeah?

The new user asking the question then decided to delete the question instead of accepting the answer from the other new user who was trying to help. It is probably not nice just as well as demanding the question author to accept the answer even if it is not satisfying for the user asking the question. Now, the user who wrote that answer went to brainde..  almighty Meta Stack Overflow asking about this behavior and what to do.

Now, what has happened afterwards is havoc, really. A moderator, in fact a Stack Exchange employee (not joking), undeleted this thread. The user asking the question got -12 downvotes and the answer 144 upvotes. The question author then self-answered and self-selected that answer. Now, that answer is at -27. Not only that, some people have spent the last 3-4 days to downvote other posts from the user asking the question. What a waste of time, childish and unproductive behavior this is.

I will highlight a few interesting comments from this Meta thread:

stackoverflow.com/questions/29496325/fbx-transformations/… …and then he went, ignored @diego.martinez ‘s answer, answered himself and accepted it. Some people are just unbelievable – Daniel Parejo Muñoz Feb 23 at 17:18


What is so unbelievable about not being completely satisfied about an answer? What is so unbelievable about writing your own answer if you think that is helpful?

haha, what an absurd amount of upvotes to that answer. – CubeJockey Feb 23 at 17:19
I’m sure others disagree. Yes the guy probably shouldn’t have deleted the quesiton but … what stuck out to me is asking for the answer to be marked. Is asking “please mark my answer as the accepted answer” recommended SO behavior? Should I be posting comments under my answer “Please mark this as the accepted answer”? – gman Feb 23 at 20:11
Wow. The meta effect here is obscene – on both the question and the answer. – BJ Myers 2 days ago
@BJMyers yup, people are piling on and downvoting/upvoting the question/answer respectively, purely as an emotional response to diego’s account of things. how useful, reducing what should be a technical knowledgebase and voting thereon, to knee-jerk populism instead. is this a side-effect of the current car-crash election season? – underscore_d 2 days ago
The actual amount of upvotes/downvotes on this question&answers is ridiculous… Please stop upvote things you don’t understand, and downvote emotionally… – vard yesterday

There are people who actually recognise the “holy” meta brainfa… effect.

Now, one would think that a moderator, or actually a Stack Exchange employee, especially with community management roles in hand, would instantly stand up to resolve the situation. But.. the hilarious it sounds, not! What is happening instead is this:

Tim … “While we generally respect the prerogative of the question author to remove something” … “How nice of you”, as it were. It’s great that you removed the writer’s name from it – good policy – but it’s incredibly inappropriate to force writing to be kept around if a person doesn’t want it. As I say, a simple and clear solution is at hand. Since the answer is so terribly awesome, just post a one-sentence question (“transformation for openGL?”) and then answer it “wiki-style”. This solves all problems. – Joe BlowFeb 23 at 13:04
The “rights” of someone to NOT have their writing seen, far exceeds the notion that “I wrote a long answer and feel bad it’s not there”. The two aren’t even in the same category. In any event, as I mention a simple and effective solution is at hand. If the answer’s so incredible that Diego wants it on SO for all time, spend 2 seconds putting it in as a QA – which SO has the facility for an encourages. – Joe BlowFeb 23 at 13:05
what if the answer is incorrect or incomplete? 63+? just because he brought it up in meta? – OmarFeb 23 at 17:44
I agree @Omar, there’s an unnecessary amount of votes on that answer. – CubeJockeyFeb 23 at 18:52
Is it possible to add a link to the meta discussion from the question (even just as a comment)? As it stands, the question doesn’t look like a low quality question (it doesn’t seem particularly high, but I’m not familiar with it). Anyone visiting the question in the future will see -12 and think it’s a very very bad question, whereas it was probably just the community outlash from this meta post. – Tas2 days ago
I do think the meta effect from this is pretty out of hand on this. – Magisch2 days ago
Seriously? The questions is being downvoted and the answer is upvoted through the roof? Get a hold of yourself people 😦 – Gimby2 days ago
Just BTW “The answer you received is fantastic” it’s a shame this was written by an SO staff member. The answer is buggy and poor. If SO had written, say, “the answer shows a huge effort” that would make sense, and be appropriate from a moderator. “answer is fantastic” is an engineering judgement call in the specific field (and could be debated forever by technical experts). – Joe Blowyesterday
@Omar, I agree and it’s getting worse overtime. The upvotes/downvotes, at this point, are not justified and clearly do not correspond with the reasoning behind them (if you mouse-over the arrow and see the popup). – Leb2 days ago
Everything in4001 says here is utterly correct and rational. The whole situation is bizarre. – Joe Blowyesterday
@TimPost, you probably want to do something regarding people targeting the (disgusting I must say) user with downvotes (since it affects the content on the site not because he doesn’t deserve it!) stackoverflow.com/users/4759574/in4001?tab=reputation – gdoron 11 hours ago
Welcome to SO, where voting system is abused and misused. – Omar 2 days ago
I could continue pasting the comments, but it is clear that many users do not agree with what is going on here and in general on Stack Overflow when these things do happen.
Yet, one comment from the Stack Exchange employee, Tim Post, has to be mentioned in here:
RE: The ‘meta effect’ – not much can be done about it, I’m afraid – it’s an ancillary cost of having this kind of support channel. By the time I saw this, the link and all was out – just editing it out wouldn’t have worked any longer (I believe this was also picked up in chat). – Tim Postyesterday
I will interpret it: so, the person, who plays a significantly role in the operation of this site, expresses that it is all good. Heck, he even mentioned that it was a fantastic answer. Anyone with a little math and C programming language knowledge knows that it may be a good answer, although even that was questioned by a few people in the area, but definitely NOT a fantastic one.
He thinks that support can only be given through such madness. He explicitly claims that this nonsense is ancillary for supporting the site. He even further distorts the truth then:

I saw this, the link and all was out.

I do not get why he is not telling the truth. It is not nice from a community manager. He actually let the crazy vote hell going on after he had first answered in this meta thread.
Fortunately, but unfortunately for him, there are people with slightly more intelligence:
@TimPost Meta-Effect can be reversed, you can simply revert all votes from the time the question was posted on meta. Unless you (as well as community) don’t care about content quality. The question is on-topic, why all the downvotes? Meta-Trolls-Mafia is messing the site up with the authority they have for voting. – Omar yesterday
Not only did he not follow that suggestion, he even ignored this comment entirely without responding to it. I am sure that as a Stack Exchange employee with community manager roles in his hand, he does not have time for following this up and responding to the community.
Unfortunately, Joe Blow removed his answer, but that summarise my opinion well on the topic.
Viva la Stack Overflow, long live to the nursery, c’est la vie zero quality; you have been on the right track, for years now; congratulations!

One of the lamest reasons for banning on Stack Overflow

It has happened several times now to Trusted Users that they have been banned for the reason of:

More than one person has expressed that they would not like to work with the user in questions.

This is one of the strangest reasons given on a site with such huge volume and risk of confrontation as Stack Overflow. Anyone actively participating sure confirms that confrontation does happen on a daily basis and so likes and dislikes are born.

In fact, if one fundamentally disagrees with the moderator team, there is likely more than five to ten people who would not like to work with that user then. That may be for instance because the user has vastly different goals with the Stack Overflow site than the moderators. Thereby, one may already become a very inconvenient and hence ban-worthy user.

It does not need to be reiterated that Stack Overflow is mostly a game rather than a quality knowledgebase. This causes further nonsensical debate, sadly. Therefore, there are many people who would be banned based on this premise, especially among the moderators who get into lots of confrontational cases.

Let us just put a Stack Overflow user’s comment in here before this also gets removed by the Stack Overflow moderators. lamest-reason-for-banning

Andrew Barber keeps unhelpfully closing valid questions

The current story is some observation by multiple Trusted Users about Andrew Barber‘s closure pattern on Stack Overflow.

While the name does not really matter, it is still mentioned as some people seem to complain if they do not see concrete data.

Let us see two posts from the near past that he closed with his moderator binding votes out of his expertise area (!) based on the Stack Overflow track record, at least.


First of all, the other thread had very poor answers. Secondly, the OP over there had been inactive, so it is unlikely that he would accept new answers to get the best new answer to the top. Thirdly, the OP in this new question is the top one asker in the Qt tag.

Yet, Andrew Barber, who has no any Qt track record (!), decided to know better what he is doing in the Qt tag.  Then, the top one answerer for the time being also got into this thread to agree with the top one asker. Unfortunately, we cannot show that comment anymore as it was removed by some moderator. Guess whom? No, actually, do not guess. It does not matter who exactly did that after all.

Either way, we do have Andrew Barber’s response in the comment section, which was also removed:

@lpapp If you think so, and since you’ve used your Mjolnir to back that up, I won’t do anything further here. –  Andrew Barber♦

There are many other cases, but I will not waste your time too much with those. I will only show another example that was happening this week:

andrew-barber-2Again, this was done on an extremely good question which is so rare on Stack Overflow these days due to the obvious decline in moderation. The most active top answerer in the tag expressed his disagreement with Andrew. We have captured these comments with a screenshot before they get removed:

andrew-barber-3As you can read, he claims that “it was likely a simple mistake“. Unfortunately, it seems to be a continuously repeating pattern rather than a simple mistake. We have just shown two cases, but there are more to it. It is not “a” simple mistake. It is a series of those.

Even then, why is the top contributor accused to be “a bit out of proportion” with the reaction of saving a valid question? These closures are unreasonable. In this special case, it would have made the OP locked out from getting further help along with, possibly many, future readers.

To be fair, Andrew Barber is still one of the moderators who at least apologizes for his mistakes unlike some other moderators. That is not to mean that he ought to carry on with repeating this type of irritating mistake. It would be nice to see this changed.

Edit: Andrew Barber seems to have now blocked some of the top contributors on twitter after noticing this post. Even Omar took his words in the comments below back in private on IRC. Yet, Andrew Barber keeps talking about out of proportion. None of the contributors called them abusive and what not; none of the contributors blocked any of them and they speak about out of proportion.

We will continue analyzing moderator behavior patterns in the future on this blog. We will come up with the next moderator in action soon. Stay tuned!

Flags are not anonymous on Stack Overlflow?

One of the Trusted Users reported that lately he flagged a very low quality contribution in the form of an answer of a rep whore with lots of reputation points on the question in the form of bounty.

Heavon knows why, but the flag was declined by a moderator even though the person, rightfully flagging the low-quality contribution, has not left any comment or sign of the flag. The response in the declined moderator message was the following:

Warning: do not target specific users with flags!

First of all, the post has been deleted by the community after reaching 7-10 score in negative, so this was not an unhelpful flag to say the least.

Secondly, how would any moderator know who flagged the post?

Thirdly, even if the moderator had somehow knew in this particular case, how would the moderator have known the flagging history of the user by persona?

We always hear the mantra of flags and downvotes being anonymous. This case does not seem to indicate it so. Even if it had been mere guess from the moderator, why would the moderators jump into such serious conclusion based on their gut feeling? This is very inappropriate to say the least.

The end of the story is that the user even got a long ban whose helpful contribution helped to shut a reputation whore down with the extremely low-quality contribution. Please, can I just say unbelievable…

Another Trusted User said goodby(t)e to Stack Overflow

It is, on one hand, saddening to see another 25K+ Trusted User leaving Stack Overflow with all his expertise given for free to Stack Exchange, on the other hand, it is understandable. See what the top of his profile writes:

omar-left-soHe has been the third top contributor of all times in his area and the two people who beat him are no longer active in there. Therefore, we can say that we lost another top expert in his area. I really do not get Stack Exchange as a company.

I am not referring to the moderators anymore who seem to be puppets in the Stack Exchange machine. They do not have their own rights. They have to do what Stack Exchange as a whole is happy with. They may seem to take their own decisions, but they cannot really go against the big boss. Why are they selected by the community if Stack Exchange instructs them? Either way, this is not a discussion for today.

The matter of the fact is that experts keep leaving the site due to the obvious decline in moderation. I wonder how many more people need to leave the site, either forcefully or on their own before Stack Exchange realizes that the direction taken is not good for the quality of the site.

Now, Stack Overflow has achieved to be unwelcome in several IRC support channels, mailing lists and official documentations due to its low quality questions and answers. This will just get worse and worse if those posts are defended and the experts are frightened away who would actually change the status quo.

Brad Larson in action again

This is not a surprise, unfortunately. The Stack Overflow moderators defend low-quality content and start to warn experts who spend their spare time for free on this site. Here goes the moderator’s comment on the question at hand before it gets removed:

brad-larson-in-action-againAnyone can look the question up. It was one of those unbearable posts that drive Stack Overflow to what it is today. It is not good that the tendency gets worse and worse.

Moderators keep engaging in arguing with the experts rather than supporting them. Some would call these comments from moderators non-constructive. There is even a flag type for that.

As many Trusted Users’ ban, self-deletion and leave indicate, this abusive word became their mantra, sadly. They can glue it on everyone without justfying it and from that point on, they think that is an axiom and hence starting point for any discussion.

Why do uneducated answerers not hide in shame on Stack Overflow?


the almost link-only answer writes:


This is used to delimit the quoted code in the relevant snippet file

The question was about qdoc and the answer is about doxygen. Yet, the answerer collected five scores as of writing this and the OP has even been fouled into this and the OP did mark the answer as the correct one.

Some users started to write this is nonsensical a reply and what is more: the answerer did not start hiding in shame deleting his “answer” in no time. No, the answerer seems to be an active user, yet he keeps this around.