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I've been using StackOverflow since the beta. As you'll see if you look at my profile I don't have a huge rep, and morally I guess I should have answered more questions by now, but frankly the world is so keen on answering C# questions especially that they're mostly gone before I get the chance.

Anyway the point is that I'm a long-time SO user who has keenly followed its progress; I used to listen to the podcast and I think I understand the philosophies behind it.

Now, while I still find it immensely useful, it's at the point where the so-pervasive moderation just leaves me feeling unwelcome and like there are hoards of awful literal-minded jobsworths cruising the site just looking for the slightest reason to close a question down.

What's more, when I searched meta looking for others that might have expressed the same concerns as me, any that had had been massively downvoted, adding to my feeling that the active and engaged part of the community can't deal with any criticism.

Clearly I need to give examples at this point. Well the question that led me here was this one Modifying headers on Chrome. I checked the FAQ and that question clearly meets the criterion that it is about "software tools commonly used by programmers". It is also answerable, and indeed has been answered, very usefully for me. But it's been closed as Off Topic by 5 users! Why??

The other one that springs to mind was an old question of mine that someone had removed the word "Thanks" from the bottom of the question. Now I understand why you don't want each question to be full of noise, but really, the word "thanks". Why bother editing it? It benefits noone but just leaves me feeling (very) slightly violated and unwelcome.

Perhaps I'm overreacting somewhat, but I do find that SO is becoming a home for (often incorrect) pedants and nitpickers rather than the rich resource it was and should still be.

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closed as not constructive by jadarnel27, jonsca, Yannis, Brad Mace, kiamlaluno Aug 8 '12 at 17:53

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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No, but leading/poisoning the well questions reduce the value of Meta as a place for rational, constructive discussion. –  Ben Brocka Aug 8 '12 at 15:14
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Obligatory reference since this seems to be your first post here: meta.stackoverflow.com/faq#vote-differences –  Wesley Murch Aug 8 '12 at 15:15
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The question you show is a shopping list question, which are off-topic across the entire SE network. Editing out salutations is [encouraged;](meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2950 however it shouldn't be the only thing that is edited in a post. Don't take it personally - it's a philosophical thing, and you are no less welcome. Re "pedants and nitpickers" - you're entitled to your opinion, of course, and hey, maybe you're right. But SO's success and the fact that it still provides some semblance of quality kinda justifies the community's actions, don't you think? –  Pëkka Aug 8 '12 at 15:15
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@WesleyMurch Right OK point taken about the meta votes. Though I still think the downvoting probably shows a wilful refusal to consider there might be a problem. –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:18
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Don't take edits or moderation on your question personally. My strategy is to never take what happens to me on the Internet personally. Also, downvotes are different on Meta and simply mean that people do not agree with you. They shouldn't be taken personally. –  Ricardo Altamirano Aug 8 '12 at 15:19
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@Gaz it doesn't necessarily. It can just as well mean "I considered whether there might be a problem, and I reached the conclusion that there isn't." –  Pëkka Aug 8 '12 at 15:19
    
@Pekka Could you define "shopping list"? I would take that to be something like "what is the best 23" monitor I can buy". This question was essentially "how can I do this thing in Chrome that I can do in Firefox". –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:33
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He asks for suggestions for a Chrome extension. Not strictly a commercial "shopping list", but certainly something that can (and most likely will) end up in a large list of various suggestions. Simply not a good fit for this Q&A. –  Bart Aug 8 '12 at 15:35
    
@Bart that's just completely not true! That's the ideal answer to the question. –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:43
    
@Gaz There is no right answer to the question. ANY extension could be listed as a potentially valid answer. If that's the case, it's a bad fit for our Q&A format. –  JNK Aug 8 '12 at 15:45
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@JNK how do you figure that? Only extensions that perform the job could be listed as answers... or is that what you meant? What if the question instead said "how can I get Chrome to modify the HTTP headers it sends"? Is that OK? If not then what about "how can I reverse an array in C?" There are any number of ways to go about that - the best one gets the accepted answer. –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:52
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Part of the problem does admittedly lie in the formulation. If it would have been phrased as a problem for which a solution needs to be found, a particular tool might have been the answer. And the question would have been less likely to be closed. So that could in some sense be a way around it. Though there are no guarantees. –  Bart Aug 8 '12 at 15:57
    
Another part of the problem is that this site isn't meant solely to answer your question right now. Qs & As are meant to last, and next week that extension or plug-in may cease to exist. You got an answer to your question, why do you care if it is now closed as off-topic? The reason is to discourage others from asking similar, shopping list questions. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 8 '12 at 16:27
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"I do find that SO is becoming a home for (often incorrect) pedants and nitpickers rather than the rich resource it was and should still be." Why can't it be both? –  Bill the Lizard Aug 8 '12 at 17:14
    
Offered with a smile: Stack Overflow is for programmers. We should all be pedants and nitpickers! –  Andrew's a Unitato Aug 8 '12 at 19:23
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3 Answers

It's OK to ask questions about "software tools commonly used by programmers" as long as they fit into the SO model, meaning (for one thing) they must avoid attracting hordes of opinionated responses where every answer is technically "correct".

Your post in my opinion is borderline, but definitely smells like a "recommendation" question which is definitely going to attract close votes. You got your answer, so I would think you'd be satisfied. This is the community that closed it, the same folks that may choose to reopen it if they wanted to.

As for the "thanks" that was removed:

Thanks so much for reading.

Have a good day.

Regards,

Wesley Murch

wesley.murch@gmail.com

See where I'm going with this? Useless words that waste time and page space.

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I wonder if you'll get these greetings edited out of the answer. –  Tom Aug 8 '12 at 15:23
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Hi Wesley! I hope life is treating you well. How is the weather in Connecticut? For us, it's colder than usual in the season, but still there's enough occasional warm spots to make you feel like it's summer. And we've been waiting for that all year, haven't we? Still, summers ain't what they used to be. That's global warming for ya, eh? Anyway, I wanted to let you know that I think this is a great answer, and I have voted you up. Best, Pekka –  Pëkka Aug 8 '12 at 15:24
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@Pekka The email address is right there. Just mail the guy. –  Bart Aug 8 '12 at 15:24
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resist... urge... to... remove... salutations... are... vital... part... of... answer... phew –  Oded Aug 8 '12 at 15:24
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Hi @Pekka, thanks for your comment. –  Wesley Murch Aug 8 '12 at 15:24
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Hi @Tom, thanks for your comment. –  Wesley Murch Aug 8 '12 at 15:25
    
@WesleyMurch you're most welcome :-) ;) Have a good day. –  Tom Aug 8 '12 at 15:25
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Hi Wesley, you're most welcome. I notice you forgot to mention your phone number and postal address in your post. I might need those if I decide to send you a letter, for example, or give you a call over some question. Can you amend them, please? –  Pëkka Aug 8 '12 at 15:26
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I like turtles. –  Robert Harvey Aug 8 '12 at 15:30
    
@RobertHarvey What a coincidence. I also like turtles. –  Servy Aug 8 '12 at 15:31
    
Tortoises are my favorites. –  Tom Aug 8 '12 at 15:36
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You don't actually read any mail sent to that address, do you? –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 8 '12 at 15:36
    
Ahh you guys.... That question was not mine. And you're right, the answer was there. But what if another, better, plug-in appeared? Now noone can add it in to the answers, get upvoted etc etc.... –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:39
    
The question should not be there to begin with IMHO. Therefor I don't worry about no new answers being allowed. –  Bart Aug 8 '12 at 15:41
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@RobertHarvey - Yes, turtles are great. Did you know that it is turtles all the way down? –  Oded Aug 8 '12 at 15:46
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  1. Closing is not the end of a question. Questions can be reopened with five community votes or one diamond moderator vote. Anyone with editing rights (including the OP) is free to edit the question to bring it in line with site and community standards.

  2. Some closed questions (like the one you pointed out), are not especially objectionable, and can stay on the site indefinitely in their closed state (without being deleted). You found the question, and it's answer, didn't you?

  3. In the particular question you pointed out, its closed state prevents the addition of "me too" and "here is my favorite" answers. This is a good thing. SE sites are not intended to be a "List all the Things" mechanism.

  4. Participants should not take voting and closing personally. They are the mechanisms that allow the site to remain high quality, and prevent the material posted from descending into forum hell. Do not confuse moderation with rudeness.

  5. Your question (and its answers) should look like a mini blog post when you're done. You wouldn't put "LOL ROFL thanks in advance" at the end of one of your blog posts, would you? No, you wouldn't.

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What's more, when I searched meta looking for others that might have expressed the same concerns as me, any that had had been massively downvoted, adding to my feeling that the active and engaged part of the community can't deal with any criticism.

Part of the problem with questions, like this one, that question moderation / site policies (and probably why the similar one's you found are downvoted / closed), is the tone of the questions.

It would be nice if you

  • constructively brought up a few specific closed questions,
  • explained why you think they were wrongfully closed,
  • asked the community what they think about those questions, and then
  • mention that it might be indicative of a larger qualty issue with Stack Overflow's moderation / policies.

Starting off with a title talking about "overzealous moderation" and "ruining SO" comes across immediately as non-constructive.

Saying that the "the active and engaged part of the community can't deal with any criticism" also makes your question difficult to handle, especially since you are posting specifically to that portion of the community.

Finally, name calling ("SO is becoming a home for (often incorrect) pedants and nitpickers") pretty much solidifies that we can't have a reasonable, constructive discussion that is going somewhere.


I personally don't think that the moderation is out of control; I think the quality filters and high signal-to-noise ratio is what makes Stack Overflow so great. Without the rules, and the community cleanup efforts, the whole site would devolve into the chaos that you see on traditional forums.

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Yep OK I can see that my question is a little confrontational, but it is the result of an accumulation of a period of feeling exasperated by SO and is partly just an opportunity to vent. I agree that SO is miles better than any alternative, but my feeling is that more and more people are failing to think for themselves about the overall goal and instead resorting to over-literal interpretations of the rules. I have no idea what could be done about it and perhaps we are in the best situation that could be hoped for. So you're right, my question isn't that constructive. –  Gaz Aug 8 '12 at 15:48
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Even though you're frustrated, try to keep your questions free of those frustrations. I can understand where you're coming from. Part of the power of SO though lies in its strict moderation. I prefer to be slightly overcautious, causing the occasional upset rather than allowing questions that do not really fit to trickle through. Even if that means closing content (or at least contributing to the closure of content) that I personally like or am interested in. It's nothing personal. It's merely my contribution. –  Bart Aug 8 '12 at 15:55
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@Gaz I think Bart has said it well in his comment above. Maybe wait a day or so before posting something like this, cool down, and then re-read the question with a level head before posting to see if it needs some revising. –  jadarnel27 Aug 8 '12 at 15:57
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