What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 128 Stack Exchange communities.

For those not familiar, w3Fools is a site that was created in criticism of w3Schools, an entry-level tutorial/reference site for HTML, javascript, and PHP (among other things).

The issue that I raise here is that it becomes increasingly frequent to see w3Fools posted as a link in response to questions and answers. This ad hominem-style attack is often the only content of a post, usually in comments, as if to say "You linked to w3Schools, therefor your entire answer/question is invalid or incorrect."

I see two significant issues with this, both in terms of attitude/community spirit and in terms of participating in the perpetuation of misinformation without understanding.

As it relates to attitude, when users are trying to help or trying to seek information, it is deleterious to have their efforts rebuffed on the premise that the reference source they use is so polluted as to render their entire contribution irrelevant. This is not the appropriate venue to explore the validity of the criticisms raised on w3Fools, but it does suffice to say that w3Schools, your mom's blog, or a random forum could all contain information that answers a question, raises a question, or adds a viewpoint to either. If information is patently false, it is false, regardless of the source. If, however, the information is relevant and accurate, does it matter where it comes from? By touting w3Fools as an automatic invalidation of a question or answer, we create an elitist and hostile environment in which a user is judged simply on where they got their information. This is not conducive to community, and it is not conducive to the purpose of the site.

Secondly on perpetuation of misinformation, whenever a more experienced developer blasts another less-experienced developer with the w3Fools link and a downvote based solely on the source of an answer's information, the less experienced developer either turns away from the site in frustration (bad), or worse starts to post w3Fools everywhere he or she sees w3Schools referred to. The vicious cycle feeds itself, and now we have troves of newbie developers swearing that any reference to w3Schools is blaspheme when they don't even understand the criticisms raised against it. They turn out to be even more zealous than the experienced developers, and now we have a w3Schools witch hunt on our hands. Stackoverflow is now a major source for the propagation of the idea that w3Schools is a horrible place, we are training a whole crop of developers to blindly hate a particular website without cause or understanding of why.

w3Schools, like any other site, is a potential source of valid information, especially for entry-level developers. Moreover, w3Fools is not a source of information. I feel it incumbent upon the more experienced developers to be removed from unrelated mudslinging when providing information, that we remain objective. To this end, I ask if it is acceptable for postings, either as comments or answers, that serve only to raise the w3Fools criticism, to henceforth be treated as the spam that it is.

Thanks for your consideration.

share|improve this question
18  
It is most definitely not spam (I'm not sure how you can conclude that), but it's not constructive. There are comment and answer flags for that. –  Michael Petrotta Sep 2 '11 at 16:48
4  
I conclude that it is spam because it adds no more value to a question or answer than if I had posted a picture of Milhouse from the Simpsons. Especially when it is posted without any comment or context, or by someone parroting by rote something they don't even understand. I don't use w3Schools, I don't even like w3Schools, but I fail to see how that is relevant or interesting to anyone, ever, unless the question is "Do you like w3Schools", which is not an SO question. –  Chris Sep 2 '11 at 16:54
4  
That's still not spam. I dislike those w3fools links too, but let's not call them names just because. –  Michael Petrotta Sep 2 '11 at 17:06
1  
When you say "spam", do you take it to mean strictly promotional/advertisement -type stuff? When I use the word "spam", it means basically a non sequitur - anything that does not materially contribute to the immediate discussion at hand. I look at it from a forum moderator perspective, off-topic, posting a smiley with no words, any of that stuff is spam to me. In Bill's answer he uses the word "noise" - that is a bare synonym of spam in my view. It meets the qualification of "undesirable" as defined in the article you linked. –  Chris Sep 2 '11 at 17:10
4  
What matters most here is what SE thinks. From the spam flag: This question is effectively an advertisement with no disclosure. It is not useful or relevant, but promotional. –  Michael Petrotta Sep 2 '11 at 17:12
    
@Michael Petrotta - "It is not useful or relevant," is met, the "but promotional" is not, thus it is not spam? Okay, as you say the viewpoint of SE is most significant here; however the crux of my question/point is that if I flag such a post, will the moderator do something about it? Bill says "yes". A thorn by any other name still pierces the skin, these links are not useful and there ought to be recourse when it is used destructively. –  Chris Sep 2 '11 at 17:16
    
From a moderator's point of view, the key difference between spam and noise is that I'll take an extra moment to delete the spammer's account as well as the post. ;) –  Bill the Lizard Sep 2 '11 at 17:18
    
I agree, those links should be removed. Remember, though, that a spam flag has much larger repercussions to the poster than a simple "not an answer" flag, in a way that doesn't necessarily involve a moderator's discretion. That's why I bring this up - use the right tool for the job. "Spam" means something very different than "noise" on SE. –  Michael Petrotta Sep 2 '11 at 17:19
4  
Here are numbers! A quick search for the plain string "w3fools" returns only 17 results. A search for "w3fools.com" returns 30. Comments fare worse: there are 580 comments that contain "w3fools." (Query takes 20 seconds to run.) The first one, amusingly -- or distressingly, or facepalmingly, or whatever adjective you prefer -- is "w3fools.com – SLaks♦ Jan 27 at 1:00." –  Pops Sep 2 '11 at 19:01
1  
Definitely going to go with "facepalmingly", if we may invent a word (and I think we may) –  Chris Sep 2 '11 at 19:14
    
@Popular: Your query apparently includes those comments that are deleted too. –  staticx Sep 2 '11 at 19:21
1  
Looks like SLaks' comment was removed. –  staticx Sep 2 '11 at 19:25
    
@Popular: Thanks for posting it.. I am going through and flagging for removal now. –  staticx Sep 2 '11 at 19:27
    
Looks like you're right, @0A0D. Having to deal with old info is an unavoidable side effect of using the data dump. I know deleted content is explicitly excluded from dumps, so I assume any "dead entries" were deleted after the dump was posted; perhaps even because someone is now going through the query results and deleting things. –  Pops Sep 2 '11 at 19:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

I don't consider it spam, but I do consider dropping a bare URL to W3Fools with no explanation to be noise. I can't speak for anyone else, but if you flag these I will delete them. If someone wants to criticize the content of a specific page on W3Schools they should be able to come up with specific reasons why that page is a bad reference.

share|improve this answer

I'll bring my personal experience: I happened to know about w3schools (yeah, I dind't know of its existence until less than one year ago..) when I started using SO; I saw more and more high-horsed links pointing towards this w3fools resource, so I was curious and started browsing both.

What I can say, in defense of those linking to that site, is that MANY TIMES they're right. Maybe they use the wrong attitude, maybe they act too rude, or maybe they've the blindess of the novice who just learned the hard way about it (and here I must repent, for I too have used that link in a couple occasion. But I swear I've not been rude, as it's not in my chords and, moreover, I'm emphatic enough to know how people can feel).

The failure in the message they convey is that it looks like w3school is the evil, a priori.* Which isn't, of course, but it indeed carries some misinformation which can be very costly, especially for the people they target to. Have a look, for example, at the MySQL tutorial: last time I checked (not very recently), it was full of security holes and bad practices; and that you see in many beginners question on the php-mysql tag here. In this case, pointing towards w3fools is RIGHT, imho, and if ever you're making an error, you're making the same as the person who posts about w3school: both link to something quite blindly, without warning about a careful use of what they're linking to.

The ideal situation would be link to w3fools explaining WHY, and ONLY WHEN NECESSARY (ex., when talking about SQL injections risks). Linking without explanations is as wrong as linking any resource without giving context, aggravated by the attitude in case it is bad or rude.

Moreover, it would be BAD also to discourage people from linking to them, because you're guilty of leaving in public a potentially bad information that can cause damages when not taken carefully. I know, there are downvotes and all, but that's not assured, and the information is there and you could have avoided it.

POsting with too much eagerness and ingenuity both the resources is wrong, as one carries some misinformation, the other corrects the first but adds nothing to the specific problems. Some hegelian measure should come in the middle.

But, as other already said, it's not spam, at least not in the common acception of the term.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .