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re: Has Stack Overflow Become An Antipattern? VIEW POST


I stopped answering a few years ago too, for the most part. I mean, I never answered a lot of questions anyway. I do still use SO and I do pop in and run a few moderation tickets when I see the little red dot appear.

When going through the review queues, I skip a lot of the "cerebrally domain specific" ones you're talking about and only chime in on syntax, grammar and similar edits, or on quality or duplication open/close votes.

I don't know how many other people do this, but I hit "re-open" quite a lot on content I think is relevant. There are obviously people who are trigger-happy with the close button, but at least SO has a way to self-moderate there.

I agree with most of your post, except for the bit about moderator selection:

Moderators are selected for their conduct, not their popularity

That's theoretically how it is on SO at the moment, and how it's been for years. Anyone (with a fairly low minimum rep) can apply or vote, and I see people apply with a couple of hundred to tens of thousands of rep. I don't know about anyone else, but I vote based on their application post and any examples they link, not the number next to their names.

StackOverflow was a nice experiment, but I think the results are clear. We need a new solution.

That's us! Or Dev and other sites like it. And code competition sites, and portfolio sites. We shouldn't hide from question-answer posts like in #help that people have been trying to build up, but neither are we trying to replace SO. We couldn't. If we tried to scale like that we'd change, and we'd probably change to heavy-handed moderation, I think. Small, friendly threads are where it's at.

Your post boils down to a few points as far as I can see (in terms of relevance to us here on DEV.

First, all the good questions have been asked.
We see the beginnings of that here already. Not so much in the way of questions but of content in general - how many "10 tips for people new to the command line" get posted every day? It's harder and harder for people to find something they can talk about that hasn't already been done to death.

I asked about duplicate content here before. I think there's an opportunity to add a feature such as related posts where we have the "another post you might like" block, but matched by keywords in your article. Encouraging people to search for content before posting, that sort of thing. I see people make posts which would work well as comments to earlier posts, and I also see the popularity contest you're talking about:

Second, popularity contests.
Dev does this pretty well, I think, by hiding people's "follower" counts. Sure, people make humblebrag posts from time to time congratulating themselves on being popular, but it's not common. We also have a problem with Ben's "big thread club" posts I think. There's a positive feedback to online attention that's not healthy, and highlighting people for having attention gives them more.

I wrote a post about that over on Quora (which is about the worst popularity contest there can be). At what number of followers are you considered popular.

I'm not saying people don't deserve attention for what they write, but I am saying that surfacing content that way isn't good.

If you browse the site by "latest" you get to see a lot of "hidden gems" that never make it, many of which have near-duplicates that do make it, because the writers have that elusive popularity factor. It's not fair to newcomers, and they try to break the pattern by scraping the barrel with "5 ways I made money with CSS" type clickbait.

Lastly, a ray of hope shines through the window of opportunity at the end of the tunnel: development and developers are still changing. We haven't run out of questions because every week there's a new piece of technology. It doesn't have to be cerebrally unreadable for someone to say they can't figure out how to do something in new tech X that everyone here knows how to do in old tech Y.

That happens to us every day, right? We pick something new, because maybe FOMO, and sit and stare at it for an hour or a week, thinking "how can I get this piece of shirt to print hello world and why can't I stick with Modula-2 and good old WriteLn?"

Maybe that's just me.

But it's a simple example of something specific that SO might divide into "how do I print text?" and "how does new tech X's internal frobulator frobulate nouns?" Dev lets us have digressing threads where we talk about all the pieces together.

We're not off-topic.

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