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While I appreciate that exacting questions, answers and indeed standards are the measure by which Stack Overflow is judged by viewers, contributors and searchers, I can't help myself in including sometimes humorous comments to questions...

Responders and commentators can be ridiculously stoic at times, and I'd like to understand how people view these.

All views are graciously received.

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a better example: Why is this program erroneously rejected by three C++ compilers? // "please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions..." –  gnat Oct 25 '12 at 5:12
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@gnat: Best. SO question. Ever. Except maybe for Flash CS4 refuses to let go. –  Robert Harvey Oct 25 '12 at 5:44
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-1 for unicorns, the obsession with mythical creatures on a professional site is getting out of hand –  prusswan Oct 25 '12 at 7:11
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Not very well, I've learned. –  Chris Gerken Nov 7 '12 at 21:05

3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Humor is okay, but we're here to solve problems

Well, it's one thing to slip in a casual, yet related, joke to a question about a real, actual programming problem that you're facing, but if the sole purpose of the post is simply to get a rise out of people, then this just isn't the place for that.

I use Stack Overflow a lot in my work. When I land on a Stack Overflow post from a Google search, I can quickly determine in a matter of seconds or minutes if the answers will solve my problem or if I should move on. The lack of noise makes this possible. The conciseness of the posts allow me to ask myself two questions:

  • Is this problem similar to the one that I'm facing?
  • If so, do any of the answers sound like something I should try?

Forums, on the other hand, are analogous to wandering around in a dark, endless maze, desperately trying to find your way from point A to B, only to come to a dead end after fumbling around in the dark hoping to find an answer. The jokes aren't so funny when you're focused on an end result and run into a lot of nonsense.

You can't focus on solving problems if there are too many distractions.

Think of SO like your job

I think of Stack Overflow like I do my workplace. Sure, we occasionally joke around at work, but the sole reason we're there isn't to goof off. We're there to do a job. Likewise, on Stack Overflow, any post you create should align with the goal of helping future visitors solve a specific problem. If the post doesn't do that, then it simply doesn't belong.

To be clear, the post you referenced was off-topic and useless, perhaps to the point where it should be flagged as "very low quality" and deleted. However, had it been a programming problem about creating video editing software, and the author was stuck on a specific problem related to codec issues or C memory management, then perhaps a bit of humor would have been acceptable.

Remember, if Stack Overflow turns into the type of place where people are searching it just to read jokes, then it has failed in its mission. On Stack Overflow, the humor can't be the goal. The purpose of searching Stack Overflow should always be to learn. If you laugh along the way, so be it, but that's not why we're here. If we want to waste time on non-constructive activities, we have Facebook for that sort of stuff. ;)

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we have Facebook What are these we and Facebook things you speak of? –  Tim Post Oct 25 '12 at 7:02
    
I take it, @TimPost, that you're not a Facebooker, and that we won't find you posting all those polls and "getting to know you" questions you've been wanting to ask for so long? ;) Must... post.. pics... of. ..kittens.... somewhere... now.... –  jmort253 Oct 25 '12 at 7:06
    
Would you say humor is more permissible on Meta? Just following up on his question. –  aug Aug 10 '13 at 21:04
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@aug - To a point. Meta's goal is to improve SO, not goof off. We should have fun but not lose focus on the mission. I guess the best advice for us as a community is to just use good judgement and don't let things get out of hand. Hope this helps! :) –  jmort253 Aug 10 '13 at 21:18

The reason why that question was closed has nothing to do with its being humorous.

It was closed because it was a crap question with zero specific detail, or previous research.

How does the SO 'council' view such humour!? Is it feigned upon or welcomed?

there is no such council really. Just thousands of monkeys with guns users with enough reputation to vote and closevote. Some people in the community hate humour; some love it; some love it in the right places. You'll find all sorts of opinions really, and all sorts of comments.

In general, however, as jmort253 points out, humour is welcomed as long as it doesn't distract from the issues. A question entirely designed for a laugh but with zero technical substance is likely to be closed and/or deleted, even by those who love humour.

The question you link to could have been asked in a good way (with a specific issue). It would have still been humorous, but guaranteed to stay open then, so that's the way to go!

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Adding humor to questions and answers is like adding ingredients and seasoning to food. When done right, it makes good things great, but when done wrong, it takes perfectly good things and ruins them. And people who have the skill to do it right are rare (like unicorns — I'll take my upvote now, please).

I wouldn't say that humor is actively frowned upon or actively welcomed; it's merely allowed. When it seems like a joke is frowned upon, it's probably because the people who enjoyed the joke were outnumbered by those who thought it was offensive, understood it but didn't think it was funny or missed it altogether.

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