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neoan
neoan

Posted on

What is dev.to for?

Lately there has been an influx of certain kinds of posts on dev.to that we should probably talk about:

Uneducated opinion pieces

Before I describe what kind of articles I am referring to, let's first clarify what dev.to enabled and what - in my opinion - should not be jeopardized: The absence of gate-keeping, which destroyed the vibe of many other platforms, communities, etc.

However, this inclusiveness has particular dangers that have met a threshold recently. What I am referring to are posts that seem to be driven by a "learn by explaining it" approach and that are often simply too dangerous to leave uncommented. Way too often a mode of speech is used that would lead the beginner to believe that an expert is sharing advice while completely wrong or misleading statements are picked up and quoted. This has become so bad that I find people citing these sources and therefore unwillingly propagate misinformation similar to the false-news phenomenon in the political realm. Additionally, these articles tend to state opinion as fact. In my opinion, it is relatively easy to avoid mixing opinion with facts through language in our field as we only apply established technology.

So what's the call to action?

The question is what this community should do to avoid becoming a heap of nonsense or half-truths rather than a source of actual knowledge, given the understandable fact that many learners aren't able to distinguish between transfer of knowledge and confident nonsense.

Are you expecting the same, or is this observation based on my personal feed? Thoughts?

Discussion (12)

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited on

1) May I know what's is your solution to it?

2) My suggestion is to either ask to be the trusted user or tag moderator to flag those articles that you see is against the community guidelines by modding for your own tag or to report it.

3) For articles that you disagree with you are entitled to not read or leave a comment to help I'm sure they will appreciate it when it's coming from a positive gentle nudge.

4) For moderating the articles, there are different ways to combat fake news and unfortunately there is no single silver bullet to do it. So for dev.to they came up with using trusted users and tag moderator plus another dev.to staff to flag out or remove these articles that is against the community guidelines.

If this were easy we would have figured it out by now when the news was first created in the printing press or other community. I'm more of a laissez-faire mod for dev.to but under a specific community guideline.

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

Well, the type of articles I am referring to are usually not violating community guidelines. And I am also not talking about articles I disagree with as in having a different opinion on things. I am referring to objectively wrong statements that distort understanding for the intended audience. Since I don't want to out anyone in particular, I will construct an example:

"Since JavaScript is a compiled language, it is way faster than node. This is why you should always call your token-request from the client"

These kind of misconceptions aren't harmless as they can mislead beginners to actions that potentially harm their livelihood or endanger data integrity of users. While this is an extreme and constructed example, I commonly find comparable examples. Combined with the attire of an article of an industry professional rather than a random reddit comment or similar.

As for my personal solution: I don't know, that's why I am asking. What I currently do is to comment in the hope to spark correction. But the success of that is questionable.

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

To me it's more like a catch 22 like for example "to get a job you need experience to do it but there's no way to gain experience without a job."

For me, i believe there's always a option of writing articles by giving your own perspective on why is this is wrong. With your own personal experience in working on it or citing it from other sources. No one is gonna stop you in writing and explain these misconceptions in fact, others might appreciate it as your offering a comparative view and have the readers to make their own decisions on how it is best implemented.

Plus a single misconception will affect livehood or endanger data integrity of users. Then won't this serve to be a better example as a learning experience for the person who uses that article or the writer?

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

To me it's more like a catch 22

I don't disagree. If I look at something like stackoverflow, then the voting system leads to the best answers being featured. However, with dev.to something like that wouldn't work as dev.to is more of a community based platform encouraging opinion, exchange of ideas and so on. And I think there is a good reason not to have qualifiers when it comes to anything that isn't purely technical or a documentation.

For me, i believe there's always a option of writing articles by giving your own perspective on why is this is wrong.

Well, so I see two problems with that approach. Firstly, we probably don't want to be part of a community were articles like "This is why post x from user y is complete nonsense" are the norm. Secondly, the exposure to such corrections cannot be steered. Even though my statement about livelihood or data integrity is surely a bit extreme, there are cases where I wish I could reach all readers of a particular article in order to avoid them running into serious issues. And the best option in these cases are comments rather than different articles.

Plus a single misconception will affect livehood or endanger data integrity of users. Then won't this serve to be a better example as a learning experience for the person who uses that article or the writer?

I am not sure I follow. Would you mind explaining this paragraph to me?

Technical approach: Maybe a bit unrelated, but after thinking about this I wonder if a non-public peer review feature would be an option. A simple flag like "this article received change suggestions from peers" on the public side of things while the author can read the full feedback and decide how to react on it (in my experience, people usually aren't intentionally misleading their readers).

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited on

Plus a single misconception will affect livehood or endanger data integrity of users. Then won't this serve to be a better example as a learning experience for the person who uses that article or the writer?

Let the reader be the judge of that content and learn from the experience when they apply it. If by applying this concepts/code they got into trouble. They can quote that article and document what they had learnt in failing better

The writer of that original article could also write a response or update what they had learn after they had written the article. Sort of like self reflection on why do they think in writing the article that way.

Technical approach: Maybe a bit unrelated, but after thinking about this I wonder if a non-public peer review feature would be an option. A simple flag like "this article received change suggestions from peers" on the public side of things while the author can read the full feedback and decide how to react on it (in my experience, people usually aren't intentionally misleading their readers).

That might work if we are talking about in terms of the context in a academic research or wiki for a single source of truth but article writing doesn't work that way.

With that you increase the barrier of entry for potential new writers to start writing as a developer. Which i believe that's not what Dev.to want to do, but to provide a low barrier of entry for potential technical writers to build their brand as well to just document what they had done.

Let's face it, it takes a while to get use to writing. You won't start off as banger of viral article on your first day. Unless you had prior experience/training in doing it. Even that doesn't guarantee viewership, which comes from experience from publishing tons of articles or reading good technical articles or writing books.

Cause to me the article has to provide value be it to solve a very painful problem they had encountered when searching for it through Google or just offering a perspective on how to tackle future problems.

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

If by applying this concepts/code they got into trouble.

Thanks for clarifying. One of the problems with this current de facto reality is that this could lead to dev.to (or the complete forem concept, for that matter) being regarded as an untrusted source for research one day. As you can conclude from my original post, I am under the subjective impression that what I am talking about is a growing issue, not one that was around enough to be concerned about in the past.

That might work if we are talking about in terms of the context in a academic research or wiki for a single source of truth [...]

I think this serves as a good qualifier for the type of articles I am referring to as I still have the feeling we might not think about the exact same kind of content. There are many articles on dev.to that are written in a manner that can only be interpreted as if they would be based on exactly that premise. It is within this exact categorization of content where I see said problem.

With that you increase the barrier of entry for potential new writers to start writing as a developer

Yes, that is indeed the culprit, isn't it? Everything I theorize about here is a potential danger to the very charm of dev.to.

The last paragraphs seem to be centered around topics concerning quality and/or outreach. I just want to make clear that I by no means propose any intervention on such a level. For me this falls under the same umbrella as opinion or perspective and I personally reject any form of content government that is based on anything that can be considered subjective. It is obvious to me now that I should have spent more time defining the type of content I am "targeting" here.

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited on

One of the problems with this current de facto reality is that this could lead to dev.to (or the complete forem concept, for that matter) being regarded as an untrusted source for research one day

Sure if it's aiming towards a Academic level context and it is not instead, Dev.to is a developer community focus with a diverse range of people in different level of nationality, expertise or perspective.

In terms of untrusted source wise, i agree that your mileage my vary in dev.to. Personally, I doubt you place a 100% trust on the results of Google or Stackoverflow codes without doing your due dilligence. If you do that who am I to judge? I would just say whatever works for you. You just might not be the intented reader of that article that all, so you just move on. So let's agree to disagree this :)

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nanythery profile image
Nadine M. Thêry • Edited on

Hi there! You have a point there. However, this is not different to what actually happens all around the Internet or the real world itself.
While it is not against the community rules, I think Dev.to should not interfere as a "regulator". Like it or not, freedom of expressions is for all of us.
That said, I do think that this is not really about limit others' content, but to teach the readers, beginners or not, to be critic with what they read. Same as an average citizen should be. You might not have enough technical skills to question a post or statement, but you do have in your hand all the tools to search for other opinions on the same matter and extract your own conclusions.
And, you know what? Whoever is not interested in going through this process, will not be interested either in knowing if the post is right or not. There are people that are just ok with that.
I think you are right in your concern, but I also think that comments are just ok to politely point out something you don't agree with whether it is in its content, or its form.
Cheers!

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

I guess you have some valid points there

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digitalvillainy profile image
Roberto Rivera

I think the hard part would be that we have to have more people engage articles to combat them. Not simply to disregard what they find nonsensical. I at least find that to be my problem. Instead of jumping into the comments to engage with the author and challenging their thoughts, I tend to think "well best to avoid this one," and move on.

Not sure if that's other peoples problems, but I think more engagement might help. We as a community have driven this content, we also need to put in the same effort on commenting. It might help people reconsider their opinions and what they put on here.

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sroehrl profile image
neoan Author

Yes, I think generally you are right. The challenge is always - at least for me - to find the right balance between making it clear that there are issues with the accuracy of the content while not being unnecessarily discouraging.

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jetonth profile image
Jeton Thaçi

I think you are absolutely right. I've been thinking the same for some time now.