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Recently, there has been a poll about peoples' addiction to Stack Overflow, and justifiably so, there is a lot to like here. But what are the things you dislike?

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Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/481/… –  waffles Aug 2 '09 at 22:59

19 Answers 19

That most of the community effort is spent dealing with the last 1 hour of activity as opposed to improving the 240k questions that are already in the system.

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+1 We should never shy away from working on old questions - whether there are reps in it or not. –  ThomasH Aug 3 '09 at 7:56
    
That's a good point, although if everyone improves the last hour of questions consistently, theoretically the questions in the system should be of higher quality. It also becomes difficult to remember past questions, especially if they slipped by me the first time, or I wasn't a site member when they were originally posted. That said, I spend a fair amount of time cleaning up older questions and answers... –  Quinn Taylor Aug 11 '09 at 4:41
    
@Quinn That's very laudable. But you seem to be driven more by the question process rather than by the knowledge base aspect of SO. I, for one, would never try to "remember past questions". I come across questions because they relate to a topic I'm interested in. And then I read, respond and edit them because of that, not because they are new and/or unfinished. As for the quality, I think this is the typical "long tail" thing: With times information in answers get better and better (unless they are too old), albeit by decreasing increments. I just fixed a bad link in an old answer recently. –  ThomasH Aug 26 '09 at 16:45
    
This is an extremely good point. I was about to write a lengthy response of its difficulties and realized that I should spend that time improving my own answers instead. –  Esko Dec 22 '09 at 11:11

The site culture is extremely unwelcoming to newbies.

For those who wanted me to elaborate with examples

Example:

  1. Newbie is learning jQuery (or PHP, or the Qt toolkit, or Django, or etc..)
  2. Newbie googles basic question
  3. Newbie receives answer listed on Stack Overflow.

Later:

  1. Newbie finds Firefox is not working (or wants to know if they should learn Prototype instead).
  2. Newbie asks question on Stack Overflow
  3. Newbies gets 6 downvotes, and comments like "Should be on SU" (Newbie thinks: WTF is SU?) or "Subjective and argumentive"
  4. Question gets migrated/closed, Newbie comes back and sees question listed as closed.
  5. (Not all users make it this far). Newbie clicks link to SU. Sees "Beta Access" and password prompt (Newbies, by definition, do not read the blog).

How many users are going to do the research and find out that SU is for general questions, is in beta, and that the password is on the blog? A much much smaller number than those will go "F**K THIS" and go the Yahoo answers.

I've seen this happen many times even without being on for huge amounts of times (I don't have exact numbers, but I'd say it even happens as much as two or three times a day).

And to the person who says this only happens to those who think downvotes are a slap in the face. To a newbie, they are. While once you have over 100 reputation (nothing to anyone on Meta Stack Overflow, by definition, but not something you get instantly), -2 is far from the end of the world, for a newbie 5 of them will take all their rep. And closing the question (without explanation of how to get to Super User/Server Fault/why subjective questions are banned) is inclined to provoke the response: "My question isn't good enough?! Screw you".

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Could you detail what elements you feel are unfriendly. Not that I disagree per se (I've been with SO long enough that I wouldn't know), but I hear this complaint about essentially every on-line community I participate it, and I get the feeling that it sometimes means "I tried to impose my culture on this place and they wouldn't let me." Still, to whatever extent we really are being rude, I'd like to be part of the solution. –  dmckee Aug 2 '09 at 5:06
    
That just silly talk. I suspect you think down votes are 'bad', or a virtual slap in the face. –  Stu Thompson Aug 2 '09 at 12:00
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@Stu: They are to a newbie. @dmckee Answer much elaborated. –  Macha Aug 2 '09 at 16:41
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I will treat this as three complaints: 1) Beginners might not understand the limits of the scope of each site, 2) closes are sometimes accompanied by downvotes and negative comments, and 3) the automatic messages on closing are terse, and may not seem helpful. –  dmckee Aug 2 '09 at 17:32
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1) Beginners all got the "First time here? Read the FAQ." banner, and they had to take a positive action to make it go away. That document is very clear about the existence of multiple sites, and how to guess which site you should ask a questions on. So I am not terribly sympathetic here, though I understand that getting closed on will be frustrating. –  dmckee Aug 2 '09 at 17:34
    
2) This one is more serious. There really isn't any call for piling on with the down votes, not for mean or sarcastic comments concerning the failing of a tyro's question. We can and should be nicer. Now all e have to do is figure out how to get the word out. –  dmckee Aug 2 '09 at 17:37
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3) I like the short and simple nature of these messages for myself, but I can see how they might be too blunt for a frustrated and stymied beginner. Special case for users with <100 rep that provides wordier messages? –  dmckee Aug 2 '09 at 17:38
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I think that the FAQ should be read, but the current promotion is too limited. Every time it changes, every logged in user should see the FAQ highlighted with a NEW badge (in the iPhone sense), and every user should have a column in their db for the last time they read it. As it stands, if the first thing you do is create a login, the FAQ reminder will disappears without you reading it. Also a priority organized FAQ full of simple facts (there are 3 sites, questions appropriate to each site, etc) would help. –  dlamblin Aug 2 '09 at 18:40
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Yes, Macha, newbies have a tough time. Nosredna has a good idea how this problem can be solved. Read their comments: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6961/… –  Ladybug Killer Aug 2 '09 at 19:45
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It's not long ago that I was a newbie on SO myself, and I haven't had any bad experience. The first thing you do when you come to a new community is you just listen. Then you start offering answers where you feel confident you are really adding value. Only after that you think about posting your first question, and only after you have re-read the FAQ and done enough research to be sure you are not posting a dupe. The problem are not newbies. The problem are people that don't care enough to do some upfront investment. It's this throwing oneself onto others that annoys people. –  ThomasH Aug 2 '09 at 21:26
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@ThomasH That is one of the most ridiculous comments I have ever read. 99.9999% of newbies find the site to ask questions, not to answer them. If you had to answer a lot of questions before asking ones, the amount of rubbish answers (by people who honestly don't know, and came here to find out but were not allowed to before answering) would double overnight. –  Macha Aug 2 '09 at 21:35
    
This attitude of members are here to serve the site, not the site being here to serve the members is part of the attitude I was referring to with this answer. –  Macha Aug 2 '09 at 21:37
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@Macha That wasn't meant as a strict order, of course you can skip the "offering answers" step. But other than that I maintain the view that you first look around for a while, do some research, and don't just jump in with your question. It's fine to serve those that make their best effort. –  ThomasH Aug 2 '09 at 21:53
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@ThomasH That's another example of a conflict of interest between the site, and the site's users. Most people find the site because they're looking for an answer for a programming question, and the site is reccomended via a friend (or more likely) google. These users want an answer now. There is also a very small miniority who found it through the blogs of Jeff and Joel and here for the sake of the site (or for the sake of being against experts-exchange), but they are just that, a miniority. –  Macha Aug 2 '09 at 22:06
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@Macha: we should strive to be respectful and kind to new users, but personally... i have no interest in coddling newbies. I came to SO because i was tired of forums where users don't search, don't read answers when they're linked to instead of spoon-fed, and are allowed pretty much free reign to abuse those answering questions if they don't get the answers they want. IMHO, that's a recipe for disaster. There will never be a shortage of people needing answers... but there can easily be a shortage of people willing to answer them. If you're gonna worry about anyone, worry about the latter –  Shog9 Aug 2 '09 at 23:41

When I hit Refresh and there are no new questions.

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+1. EXACTLY. –  LeakyCode Aug 1 '09 at 22:00
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That's why there's a trilogy to feed your addiction. –  random Aug 1 '09 at 23:14

It's made me start using markdown in blog posts, emails etc... which leads to intense frustration when it doesn't work.

Other than that, just to nitpick:

  • Lack of a full API
  • Lack of offline client (would be useful for the tube)
  • Personally I'm a fan of discussions beyond what's possible in SO
  • I still don't think using time as a basis for the rep cap is a good idea

EDIT: Other minors:

  • Various notification things, including "I've fixed my answer, please check whether this solves your downvote"
  • Cancellation of comment voting
  • "Anti-close" - "this isn't a dupe"

No attention should be paid to the length of this list though - SO is still the best thing since sliced bread.

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What would you like to see as time? Types of rep capped? i.e.-Only 100 off of questions, 200 off of answers, 200 off of accepted answers type of gradiant? I don't think you can get away from basing it off of time, since every cap has to reset at some point. –  Eric Aug 1 '09 at 22:09
    
@Eric: He's previously suggested a per-answer cap, which doesn't have to reset at all. –  mmyers Aug 2 '09 at 0:06
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If it was a per answer cap, I think we would find a big inflation in the amount of rep that people got. –  Tyler Carter Aug 2 '09 at 0:35
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cap, timed cap, or no cap, you're still not gonna beat Jon Skeet on SO ;-) Then again I wouldn't know... I don't think I've ever come near the cap! –  scunliffe Aug 2 '09 at 3:52
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we are aware of the need for API and agree with it, but we have something else that is priority at the moment.. it's #2 in the queue though. –  Jeff Atwood Aug 2 '09 at 5:41
    
I'd assert that SO is better than sliced bread. What did everybody say before sliced bread came out... "it's the best thing since the wheel"? –  TM. Dec 21 '09 at 17:21
    
Aaaa! You mean the underground/subway, not a TV set. :) –  Marek Grzenkowicz Oct 5 '11 at 8:03

Receiving downvotes with no comment.

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Ironically this answer has gotten 2 downvotes without comments. :) Not sure why either... –  cletus Aug 2 '09 at 4:14
    
I suppose downvoting without commenting could be fixed. As in forced to comment when downvoting. Maybe! –  whoami Aug 2 '09 at 9:39
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I've just come to accept it. There are classes of users on SO that I just don't understand, or don't want to understand. –  Stu Thompson Aug 2 '09 at 12:02
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Yes, you don't understand... why should I leave a comment? It shouldn't be mandatory, and people should stop whining about it. You get a downvote, you whine, you get upvotes because of it, and the net rep is always higher than 0. Get over it –  jmfsg Aug 2 '09 at 14:49
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There are those that want to improve the answer, point out errors or dangers or think certain points need to be added and thus accompany a downvote with a comment to that end. Or perhaps there's already a comment that echoes your thoughts. That's fine. No need to repeat yourself. But then there are those who are too lazy to do that or just don't have a reason to downvote so want to hide behind the anonymity. Which are you? –  cletus Aug 2 '09 at 15:48
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Call me crazy, but I've never really been too bothered when I get a downvote without a comment. –  TM. Dec 21 '09 at 17:18
    
@cletus - I couldn't agree more - it's like drive-by down-voting. –  Wikis Aug 14 '10 at 21:03
    
it is interesting, how many comments "ps. buy the way, I'm not the downvoter" are deceitful. –  shabunc Aug 8 '11 at 16:02

The quantity of bad questions, posted by lazy users who are steadily gaining rep because of sympathy votes and the low weight of down-votes.

More rep loss from downvotes would be good (if I understand the "status-planned" tag on that question, this is going to be implemented, right?).

But though it might fix the unfairness of lazy users gaining lots of rep, it's not going to stop drive-by bad questions.

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If pity upvotes upsets you, stay away from SuperUser. You'll be rocking in the foetal position in no time if you venture that way. –  random Aug 2 '09 at 15:06
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Heh, true. But the main thing that annoys me is the proliferation of bad questions. –  therefromhere Aug 2 '09 at 16:00
    
It was announced in the last StackOverflow podcast that the weight of down votes will be increased to 5. –  Peter Mortensen Aug 3 '09 at 4:20
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@random that's just SU in general. Questions that do get answered are incredibly easy to find on Google, or are often answered based on conjecture or people "answering the wrong question". Anything really difficult is likely to sit unanswered. This is in stark contrast to SO or SF where the quality of information is generally excellent. –  TM. Dec 21 '09 at 17:17

I dislike the fact that we only had the Cornify button for 24 hours.

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Agree. Once you hit X rep, you should be able to "vote to Cornify". 5 votes and the page is Cornified, another 5 will get rid of it. And of course moderators should be able to Cornify/Uncornify any time. –  Kyle Cronin Aug 2 '09 at 3:56
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WTF does that mean? –  Tyler Carter Aug 2 '09 at 4:35
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for those that missed it: stackoverflow.com/questions/704353/… –  Kyle Cronin Aug 2 '09 at 4:56
    
I like that fact very much! After the second click I had to go to the restrooms... –  Ladybug Killer Aug 2 '09 at 19:26
    
Nobody was forcing you to click –  TheTXI Aug 2 '09 at 21:46
  • The "Delicate Flowers" of Stack Overflow
    • They think any and all down votes are bad, hostile or just plain mean
    • Happy, aimless up voting and vote trading
  • Hostility towards the mass reputation SOpedians (10k+) because they have high reputation. It is like they somehow don't deserve it. E.g.: The Problem with Reputation... OK, maybe Joel Spolsky's posts, but the rest very well earn their points by and large.
  • Folks who see more value in badges and reputation than quality questions and answers
  • SOpedians who continuously whine with complains about being abused, kept down or otherwise grievously mistreated by the elected moderators, high rep users, or the allegedly tyrannical rule of Jeff Atwood himself.
  • Discrepancies between WMD's preview and actual presentation
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-1, because I disagree with about half your points. Sometimes moderators do make mistakes, and I've seen spiteful downvotes. –  TrueWill Jul 25 '10 at 20:47
    
@TrueWill: So you disagree with 2.5 of my points? Interesting. /sarcasm/ –  Stu Thompson Jul 26 '10 at 14:11

People voting the Answers but not the questions.. I had a question with 3 fav tags and no one voted me.. How sad :(

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People aren't used to voting on questions really. Not unless it's one of those fun questions/topics that end up with 32 differently worded answers of the same 5 sets. –  random Aug 2 '09 at 8:44
    
But like if you ask a question that is faved by a user, Obviously it means it was a question that needed to be asked (No matter how complex or Simple) –  whoami Aug 2 '09 at 9:07
    
Good point. But marking a question as favourite is easier to go back later than voting up, which washes away in the recent votes list. –  random Aug 2 '09 at 9:23
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Often I just favourite something just because I want to revisit it later. Maybe I'm curious about the answers and want to look back when there are some. Maybe I want to see if a comment is answered. Maybe I want to see if its fixed or should be closed. Lots of reasons that aren't necessarily thinking it's a good question. –  cletus Aug 2 '09 at 9:26
    
stackoverflow.com/questions/1186588/archive-builder-php Going back to see if it is answered means you are intrested in the question, None the less i think it was a good question + answer was exceptional –  whoami Aug 2 '09 at 9:34
    
If I think a question is exceptional I'll upvote it. If I want/need to go back to it I'll favourite it. One doesn't imply the other (for me). necessarily. Besides, question-askers are already getting something for their question: an answer. –  cletus Aug 2 '09 at 10:17
    
if i was to find a question that i had a similar problem with or may i use it for later, i would give 2 votes one for the question and another for the answer. I mean yea you are being rewarded for the answer. But if the questions were voted on a favourite tag then we will have a sorted list of questions in the 'All Questions (Voted)'. In which questions such as 'What’s your favorite “programmer” cartoon?' would be replaced by Questions that really matter. Dont get me wrong not that my question matters. :D. P.S. must say i still love What’s your favorite “programmer” cartoon? –  whoami Aug 2 '09 at 12:06
    
+1 for cletus' comment. I use faving as bookmarking, and voting goes independently. –  ThomasH Aug 2 '09 at 13:03

People leaving thank you comments that your answer was helpful, but not giving you an up vote.

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That it is so addicting.

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After hitting the "Add comment" button, there is no way to close the small text window that opens if you have happened to hit the button by mistake, or no longer feel the need to make a comment. I suppose the user could reload the page to make it disappear if they really wanted to, but a simple "cancel" or "close" button would do the trick just as well, without forcing them into F5'ing.

Other than that, it's a pretty nifty site!

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This sounds more like a feature request - maybe you should post it as one? –  Kyle Cronin Aug 1 '09 at 22:48

Simple, there's no API.

Update: Lies, all lies! There is (now) an API!

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Might want to get rid of this answer. –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Aug 14 '10 at 14:04

That after a few weeks of owning an iPhone, Jeff hasn't created "an app for that."

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You already have it. It's called Safari. –  Stefano Borini Aug 14 '10 at 13:59
    
It's called stackmobile.com –  uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Aug 14 '10 at 14:07

I can't use an avatar without signing up for gravatar, which then doesn't take OpenID.

(See also Can we use non-gravatar avatars?).

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The Community Wiki Police.

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They take forever to respond at SU –  random Aug 2 '09 at 1:39

Irritating inconsistencies in the reputation system (particularly with bounties) that are "by design".

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Questions like this

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I guess it's good that this isn't on Stack Overflow then, eh? –  Kyle Cronin Aug 1 '09 at 22:14
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There are questions like these –  jmfsg Aug 1 '09 at 22:32
  • you cannot use arbitrary URLs in posts (and nobody tells you so right away)
  • the yellow-ish background of questions matching my favourites (I deleted all my favourite tags because of that)
  • the "show x more comments" link (I wish all comments were visible right away)
  • I'm not notified of new comments to posts which I commented at (yes, this is no discussion forum...)
  • error messages when posting are displayed at the bottom of the editor, where they are easily missed (esp. for newbies)
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