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I'll admit it, I have not been very active on SO for the past 18 months. In part due to having other things that I have to get done and also in part due to the decline of feeling good about spending time on the site. When I first started using SO, for me it was about getting help on a project I was working on. I then started answering questions and like many really enjoyed answering as many questions as I could. I felt good about trying to help others, watching that rep go up, and then feeling like I knew my $%^#.

Well things seemed to have changed significantly since then. For me, SO is no longer fun. I don't enjoy seeking help on this site. I also don't enjoy trying to answer other folks questions. Why? I think for many of the reasons that the moderators are taking so much heat now. Questions and answers of mine were being dismissed left and right, while other "popular' questions that were certainly not on topic continued to linger.

Obviously things have changed in part due to the size of the community, however things seemed to have gotten worse...

For me, SO used to be fun. SO used to be a great community to banter with other geeks. SO used to be my favorite resource. Why can't we simply put our energy into trying to connect with our past and what made the site so fantastic for those early users?

What do we have to do as a community to reconnect with our past?

Do we even care about it?

The infighting has go to stop as it makes the site even less fun to be around.

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closed as not constructive by Tom Wijsman, jonsca, Toon Krijthe, Martijn Pieters, ChrisF Oct 10 '12 at 21:37

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Is meta turning into a "My history on SO" blogosphere? –  animuson Mar 5 '12 at 7:02
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Could you please clarify why SO is no longer fun? Can you give examples of Q&A being dismissed left and right that are against your enjoyment? Why do you think the site was so fantastic back then but not now anymore? –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:27
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@TomWijsman waking up and finding that I lost 1K rep because a mod decided a question was no longer valid is certainly not fun. Do you think that's fun? Do you think we should be happy about it? Did that delete make the internet a better place? Did someone looking for help suddenly find it? (hint, answer to all questions should be "No") –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 7:36
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The majority of SO users do not know what "the past" is, as they weren't there for it. Just keep that in mind and the know that publicly reminiscing can do more harm than good. With that said, I agree the site has gone downhill recently. –  Pubby Mar 5 '12 at 7:40
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@RSolberg so that I understand the statement "Questions and answers of mine were being dismissed left and right" - what questions of yours have been dismissed? Since Arpil 2010, 3 questions of yours have been closed/deleted; one was migrated to "dba", the other two you deleted...? –  Marc Gravell Mar 5 '12 at 7:42
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Before this gets out of hand, note that this recent "thing" is something we are discussing internally later today. –  Marc Gravell Mar 5 '12 at 7:47
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I'm afraid to post an answer because someone is probably going to come in and accuse me of treason for speaking my mind (or say I don't know what I'm talking about since I haven't been around as long as they have). –  Purag Mar 5 '12 at 7:48
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There's a lot of words here that aren't really talking about what the issue is - so: would it be possible to summarise, clearly and succinctly, what the issue is here? is it "some mods deleted some old questions (which impacted my answers etc), without much visibility, and it has annoyed me?" –  Marc Gravell Mar 5 '12 at 8:03
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@TomWijsman couldn't disagree with you more. You all have clearly lost the forest for the trees. –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 8:17
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They are definitely going wild deleting stuff. Makes you wonder what will be left when they're done. I lost 500 rep this last week (nice to finally be able to see where it went). –  Lance Roberts Mar 5 '12 at 8:27
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@LanceRoberts: And what reputation of that do you deem was on actual useful posts? Saying that you lost X reputation means nothing if the content wasn't useful. It means you shouldn't have gotten that reputation in the first place... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:29
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@Tom, I make no claim that any of it was useful, but then again I can't be sure what was deleted, because I'm under 10k and the new system only lets me see the name of the post, not go to it (even to see my own answer). See this meta post. –  Lance Roberts Mar 5 '12 at 8:31
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@TomWijsman: so you're saying that the site improves by pissing off its most productive users? Isn't that in itself a problem? when you practically have a civil war on your hands, doesn't that imply you're doing something wrong? –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 8:42
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@Tom, I'm all about improving and editing (though not so much on SO anymore for reasons I won't go into), but they had a fine mechanism of stopping new posts and locking down old posts with an inserted historical comment. There was no reason to change that. –  Lance Roberts Mar 5 '12 at 8:42
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"I'll admit it, I have not been very active on SO for the past 18 months.", so you decided not to be part of the community for the past 18 months, and you then complain that you don't like what the community has done in your absence? "We get the government that we deserve". –  John Saunders Mar 5 '12 at 13:03

5 Answers 5

up vote 0 down vote accepted

I have noticed this as well. I came back to SO last year after a long break, to find that moderators rule the roost, pursuing a very restricted vision of what SO can be.

Now, in part the vastly expanded size and status of the site explains it - there are a bunch of people who ask terrible questions, and rules are necessary for a principled and consistent approach to discouraging all kinds of abusive behaviour.

Unfortunately, the site seems to have fallen prey to moderators-are-overlords syndrome. The rules are applied inflexibly, with strictness being an end in itself. There is no metamoderation or other mechanism to hold the moderators to account. It seems that this is how Atwood likes it, so don't expect any changes.

If you don't like it, options for change are limited. Unfortunately, I don't think anything will change until a genuine competitor is launched that addresses these issues.

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Please show me that moderators rule the roost. Please show me this moderators-are-overlords syndrome. Please show me that this is the way that the valued associates like this. –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:36
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"The letters of the law have become more important than the spirit they are meant to implement." –  sbi Mar 5 '12 at 9:08
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@TomWijsman: it is a community-driven site, sure, the point is that "community" and "users" are not just homogenous blobs. One group of users participates in the moderation, another group does not. But the second group are still users, are still part of the community, and should still be considered and respected. The former group just fails to do so. And I think the proof is in the list I already gave you of long-time productive and prolific contributors who are alienated by MSO. But "it is written" is not proof. So where is your proof that the site lives up to its written intentions? –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 9:23
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Helloooo? Can you see me? I'm right here, talking to you, and I am the proof. I fall in the second group. I am getting steamrollered by MSO again and again because MSO does not care about the think I care about: contributing high-quality content to SO. This thread is proof. The OP is proof. The discussion taking place here is proof. –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 9:34
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My claim is simply that a number of high profile SO users are upset about the irresponsible behavior and governance of MSO. My proof is that these high profile SO users say they are upset with it. Now where is your proof that this is not the case? That we're all lying? Or that we don't count? –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 9:35
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@jalf: None of these are SO proof. The first two Twitter comments are meaningless as a SO proof. The blog post is about meta and the meta question with 22 downvotes has an answer with 18 upvotes. I see no proof that the moderators do not listen / rule the roost / are overlords / like this, can you now please show examples of what you or these users are upset about? Because else I'm going to start think that you are all lying, make yourself count: Learn me that the mods are evil overlords that rule in a wrong manner and steamroll you... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 9:45
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Did you check who those twitter comments are from? Did you bother to look up their SO profiles? I'm not sure what more I can do, if showing SO users who are unhappy with MSO is not sufficient to establish that SO users exist who are unhappy with MSO. –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 10:04
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@Tom: Since I must assume you can read, I can only conclude that you are deliberately trying to be obtuse. What about "The past deletion of my (completely appropriate!) comments on Meta is why I refuse to participate there anymore." fails to indicate that this 100k+ user has been hurt by moderation? And what about "This was removed after all this time by the arbitrary decision of a moderator"? Are you trying to tell us you do not understand what those users are saying? –  sbi Mar 6 '12 at 9:09
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@Tom: You asked for proof that SO users have been burned here and do not come to MSO. Jalf provides that proof. You dismiss it because you see no proof in them saying explicitly that they have been burned on meta. So I spell it in bold for you. And now you come and ask me what I am talking about? And to top it all off you ask me to point out deleted comments of other people? Or are you asking about my comments I cited in that blog entry? I am sorry, but I have kids and my time is way too precious to waste on people who can't read or comprehend even when they have it spelled it to them. HAND. –  sbi Mar 6 '12 at 22:22
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@Tom: Since you do not even accept written statements of SO users that they are alienated from MSO as a proof that users got alienated, then there is no way to proof it — to you. –  sbi Mar 9 '12 at 9:10
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@TomWijsman What would constitute proof of users' alienation if not their own words? –  Marcin Mar 9 '12 at 9:34
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@Tom to suggest that sbi is immature as an argument against him, when he is concerned about the happenings on SO/MSO, is to admit that one doesn't really care if there is anything wrong going on. –  Lee Louviere Mar 14 '12 at 19:00
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@TomWijsman: Saying you don't know German, without saying that in German, is just useless rant. –  sbi Mar 15 '12 at 11:31
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@TomWijsman Sorry, are you responding to something that hasn't been written? sbi has posted a bunch of material, not one single blog post. Meanwhile, you haven't addressed the point that you are refusing to accept any evidence which is available, and demanding evidence from a source that would purge any such evidence. –  Marcin Mar 15 '12 at 12:19

I think one thing that would serve well would be to merge the results of all the SE communities and develop settings that drive the exposure to content. Then mods can move and reassign questions to their hearts content, and it will be driven by the user what content they have access to.

Any time the deliverable determines the content the user is exposed to, the service becomes an unnatural unwanted jerk to the consumer and becomes irrelevant.

Want to stay relevant, SO? Fix this.

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I think I got this exact message in a spam email once. –  user7116 Mar 14 '12 at 19:41

Questions and answers of mine were being dismissed left and right, while other "popular' questions that were certainly not on topic continued to linger.

They are always dismissed for particular reasons, the FAQ lists some reasons why. As I can't see any of these I can't give you more explanation to that. But it is within good reason, most of the times...

The moderators (and other community members) are actively working against the "popular" questions problem you mentioned, this has been brought to attention on the blog and has again been brought to attention on our meta. When you see a "popular" question you feel don't belong here, don't hesistate to report that as mentioned by that meta post.

For me, SO used to be fun.

Please read this whole blog post on "fun", don't get fooled by the first part or title though.

As some parts of you questions are vague and require clarification to respond to, see my comments.


Addendum: If you feel that a "popular" question that has been deleted actually does belong here, check out whether a community consensus has been reached by such a meta question. If not, you can actually add to the discussion or if none exists you can post a meta question to ask the community for it to be undeleted.

So, in essence it goes both ways but the main thing to note here is that we do try to reach a community consensus; if you don't get enough votes gathered or don't put up a convincing proof within the time that the question reaches the required vote count, or have no way to dramatically change its directions it means that the community has decided and it will take you effort to change that decision.

Although contrary to what many answers and comments are trying to claim here without any proof or examples, nor the users that participate on Meta.SO nor the moderators are deciding this by their own. This site is moderated by the community, and if those that don't want a certain change don't speak up in a way that is clear or supported by votes to us; we can't do anything for them.

Actions happen based on community decisions, not based on some users that cry over change...

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I think the phrase "popular question problem" is a nice summary of the disconnect here. Meta users they are a problem, SO users don't. –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 7:35
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@JaredPar: And why are meta users a problem? Note that SO users are tho ones who make popular questions without value. Meta.SO users try to filter these out to only get those ones that are actually useful and learn people stuff rather than some polling for fun... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:51
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@JoshCaswell I've had a lot of discussions in the last few days with people on twitter, in person, here and over email. Only people who regularly participate in meta believe in the policies. It really seems like there are different ageands between SO and Meta users. We see this problem completely differently. –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 8:01
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@JaredPar: Actually, they make sure that people don't waste their time and are actually helped in a proper way instead. Please note that I've spent my time on sites more than I did on Meta. My 47.4k network wide reputation doesn't come from nothing. The reason I'm now doing some Meta stuff is because I'm trying to help people here, at least my question is. The comments are kind of a debate simply because you have another view in your mind of which I certainly not approve. Please share with me why you think that the deleted questions belong to that notion of good question? –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:03
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@TomWijsman as I've said several times before questions should be judged by the standards of their times. The current re-judging of questions by single mods overrides literally thousands of contributions by the community. It's a slap in the face to everyone who contributed. There should be a finite window in which a deletion can occur and after that then it's a part of the history of SO and should remain there. –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 8:05
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@TomWijsman: "SO users are tho ones who make popular questions without value. Meta.SO users try to filter these out" - ouch, ouch, just ouch –  sehe Mar 5 '12 at 8:10
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@JoshCaswell you're argument is equating public with fair. It's a false equality in this case. The masses who want to help people could care less about endlessly debating rules, policy and purity. The fraction of people who do care is very small and their opinions are dis-proportionally represented. We shouldn't have to spend time here to ensure you all aren't constantly trying to rewrite history. –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 8:10
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@TomWijsman explain to me how deleting them makes the internet a better place? Does deleting them suddenly cause a user looking for help to find answers? Did it make people more likely to come to the site or more likely to stop participating? –  JaredPar Mar 5 '12 at 8:12
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@Jared (cont'd) If you live in a democracy and you don't vote, you don't get to complain about the government. If you care about how Stack Overflow works, I believe that it behooves you to keep an eye on what your fellow users are saying about that. That's the whole reason I'm here on Meta. Frankly, I'm sick of talking about this and just want to go answer some stupid ObjC questions about why adding an object to an array doesn't work (answer: the array wasn't initialized). –  Josh Caswell Mar 5 '12 at 8:25
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@JoshCaswell "If you live in a democracy and you don't vote, you don't get to complain about the government." Your idea of democracy is wrong. If you live in a democracy you get to complain about the government, regardless of whether you vote or not. There are other forms of government where you don't get to complain about the government, but I doubt anyone would consider those democracies. –  R. Martinho Fernandes Mar 5 '12 at 8:37
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@JoshCaswell: where exactly does it say? And perhaps more important, isn't this rather a case of "if yuo live in a democracy, and you're not a member of parliament, you don't get to complain about the government"? That is what it looks like to me. –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 8:39
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You get the 'fun' argument completely wrong. –  Grant Thomas Mar 5 '12 at 8:48
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@JoshCaswell: first sentence: where does it say that you don't get to complain about your government if you don't vote? Second sentence, you completely missed my point. Yes, parliament here is open, but not every SO user is here, just like not every US citizen runs for president. Some people have other things to do with their lives. But they're still being governed by this "parliament", and so, the parliament needs to be aware that it represents more people than just the parliament members. There's a word for a parliament which only looks out for the interests of parliament members. –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 8:53
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@JoshCaswell: every citizen has that ability, sure, but that's still missing my point. Are you saying that a government should only protect those who write letters, run for president, aspire to join the government? Any half responsible government will also think of the silent majority, the bum on the street corner, the person who's too busy with his job, or raising her kids, or a dozen of other activities. A government which only thinks of those who actively participate in the governance is broken. –  jalf Mar 5 '12 at 9:08
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I would propose you both to continue in a chat room or stop your discussion, it's leading nowhere from an external point of view and the last comments aren't even on the topic of the question or my answer anymore. But they do only reflect the comment of JaredPar and my response to that... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 10:14

I'll share my view and personal opinion.

Stack Overflow grew up. Literally. I wasn't around when it started but I do have experience in small cozy forums where it's fun to hang around and come to know each other in the inner circle of active members. I guess Stack Overflow was like that in the beginning.

However, with never ending influx of new users joining and millions of questions asked, it could no longer stay that cozy little place. To accommodate all of this, the developers made changes not just in the look and feel of the place, but also in the rules and what's proper and what's not.

Personally I think those changes indeed saved Stack Overflow and directed it towards being a professional place. I also don't like seeing posts deleted with hours of efforts behind them but trust the team it's for the best - the place has changed, and there's probably no point keeping old stuff around as it's more confusing than helping.

Bottom line: Stack Overflow (and the whole Stack Exchange network) is not about fun. It should not be fun. It's a professional place for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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...You're kidding me, right? If you seriously prohibit me from having even a trace of fun, I will gladly leave and tell people never to come here. –  Purag Mar 5 '12 at 8:02
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+1 Quality > Quantity, but let us have fun when it gets boring‌​. –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:10
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@Purmou here on Meta we still got unicorns and narwhals - all the fun we can get. :) –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:14
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@ShaDowWizArd: Doesn't seem like fun to me. Only people that have been around long enough to know what in the hell those mean can have a good laugh at them. I just play along innocently with unicorns, freehand circles, and all the other memes (which are kindly listed on that one post). So if you can suggest a way in which I can find some kind of enjoyment from these sites, please do so. Because right now it is grim. –  Purag Mar 5 '12 at 8:15
    
@Tom this is outdated as well. The fact war is still raging means Jeff own decision was overruled and though that rare "fun question" still exists, it's very likely to get deleted very soon by other moderator. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:20
    
@Purmou what exactly do you want and expect? –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:23
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@ShaDowWizArd: I want the Stack Exchange and Meta from 7 months ago back. I expect nothing because the people here on Meta have nothing to do but disagree and get nowhere. –  Purag Mar 5 '12 at 8:24
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@Purmou I see and agree it won't happen but not for the reason you said - the place has moved on that's all. All the fights here on Meta, as far as I can tell, are mostly pointless - in the end of the day, the development team make all the decisions. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:30
    
@ShaDowWizArd: That's the most edge case question that you could find. Please note that the SO community and a relatively new moderator deleted that and that that question actually contains some useful stuff which is why it reopened, see the relevant meta questions discussing it (just search for its title). Please note that it's not actually a war because it only has been deleted once, and I guess that back then moderators didn't care to (dis)agree with each other. Also, if you have a ton of users closing / reopening / flagging, you get the same effect. It's mainly the users' decisions... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:33
    
@Purmou: Where do you actually want to get? Because nobody here is disproving me. Actualy ShaDowWizArd tried, but that is actually not deleted right now because it does still contain useful stuff... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 8:34
    
@Tom guess only time will tell then - that edge case reflects, in my opinion, the "fun side of Stack Overflow". :) –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:36
    
@Lance Tom already pointed this out and in my opinion it's outdated. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 8:42
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@TomWijsman should we be disproving you? Seems grandiose. We are here to discuss a question by RSolberg and an answer by Sha Dow Wiz Ard –  sehe Mar 5 '12 at 8:58
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I think your use of "professional" is highly misguided... –  RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 15:57
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@RSolberg and why is that? –  Shadow Wizard Mar 5 '12 at 18:07

My Ideas...

  1. Transparency on all moderator and admin actions for questions.
    • I actually think this is only fair to them.
    • Users believe mods are guilty without knowing any evidence or facts. Transparency eliminates this.
  2. Don't disenfranchise users
    • When people spend hours of their time answering questions, having reputation gains for that effort seems like a no brainer. With the deleting going on, many hours have been thrown away.
  3. Realize that not everything must fit into a box to have value.
share|improve this answer
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Huh? #1 is already done insofar as showing which mod closed/deleted/whatever a question. If you mean "show all flags on the question", no; flags have always been private, you can't suddenly display them publicly just to deflect criticism from a mod. We do show flags that the system is sure don't contain personal information to 10k users, which should be sufficient; I don't know what other information you're looking for. #2 is silly; spending lots of time on an answer doesn't automatically mean you deserve rep for it, especially if it's decided that the question is off-topic –  Michael Mrozek Mar 5 '12 at 7:24
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#3 just seems like an attempt to add a loophole to keep questions that would otherwise be deleted; I don't even know what it's supposed to mean –  Michael Mrozek Mar 5 '12 at 7:24
    
Relative to #1, people will immediately assume that some backroom BS is going on when they can't see everything in one place. They could provide a view in the dashboard showing all mod actions in one place. Then there would never be a question. –  RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 7:31
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#1 Moderating is as transparent as it can get: we have close reasons as well as people being informed of deletions, at a certain reputation you can even see deleted stuff of others (apart from comments), we have a meta where you can get clarification; we have a chat room where you can actually follow the discussion by moderators (they use a separate room when they discuss user details that should be kept private) as per this meta announcement. –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:31
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For #3, you're damn right... The problem is that the community believes it is either black or it is white. If there is a tinge of gray, the phrase "GTFO" seems applied here. –  RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 7:32
    
Tom - where is the single view to show the activity? Hell you don't even have a view on your own profile to show you which questions or answers of yours have been deleted... –  RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 7:33
    
#2 Can you give an example of this? Closing and deleting really only happens on things that are off-topic (meaning you have spent your time on the wrong site) / not constructive (it's not useful at all) / a duplicate (already been answered) / too localized (doesn't help anyone) / not a real question (ambigious / vague thus can't be answered) / old, downvoted and unanswered (because it doesn't help anyone). Looking through that, none of these involve a high amount of upvotes. And if they do, then that's merely the result of popularity BUT popularity doesn't mean research or usefulness. –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:35
    
#3 Please clarify what you mean by this, because that line is a good example of something that has no value. Learn me why your statement would be valid... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:36
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@RSolberg: Moderators usually comment with a reason, and I also believe that a message appears at the top. You would actually notice it has been deleted if you follow up on it, which you do during the time that the question is meaningful to you. Furthermore, the reputation tab lists reputation you lost because of a question or answer of yours that has been deleted. This has been recently implemented, reputation does not disappear magically... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 7:39
    
One of the few answers that provided any ideas. Apparently don't be an ass is no longer a rule... too bad... –  RSolberg Mar 5 '12 at 16:03
    
@RSolberg: That's because the majority doesn't want to reconnect with the past. If the window in my house would've broken, I fix it, I don't throw another rock at it... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 6 '12 at 18:16
    
lol.... By all means, start breaking your glass... It might take you away from your keyboard awhile longer. –  RSolberg Mar 6 '12 at 18:18
    
@RSolberg: Are you talking to me? I think you are talking to yourself... ;) –  Tom Wijsman Mar 6 '12 at 18:21
    
And, ladies and gentlemen, we can see here the problem with meta: An answer suggesting flexibility and transparency gets completely downvoted. –  Marcin Mar 15 '12 at 7:10
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@Marcin: Of course, no research has been done. Transparency has been applied. Users aren't disenfranchised, I don't see any proof of that. The last point is just a quote, which is meaningless without context. This answer is not useful, and not constructive either; hence it's pretty reasonable that it has been downvoted... –  Tom Wijsman Mar 15 '12 at 12:15

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