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I've been asking and answering several questions so far, and I often don't like what I see. There is too much ignorance in the answers, even the ones chosen to be correct. Do you think StackOverflow should enforce "No Original Research" rule like Wikipedia does, or at least enforce or reward better verifiability (allow references, code attachements, etc)?

To clarify: I guess "No Original Research" is not exactly what I meant. For many questions you can either support your answer with a piece of verifiable code or there is available some kind of publication that supports your answer (e.g. a spec, a manual, an article, etc). Don't you think StackOverflow should encourage such verifiability and reward those who bother to go the extra mile?

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migrated from Sep 15 '09 at 17:01

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12 Answers 12

While I agree about the incorrectness of many answers, "No Original Research" rule would be too strict, since many of the questions are too specific to be answered by a simple synthesis of existing verifiable sources and thus require at least some "Original Research".

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Be the world you want to be in. If you don't like the inferior answers other people give, it's only because you didn't leap in with your superior knowledge first. Also, make sure to use the voting buttons.

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That's untrue. There is the fastest gun in the west problem. I once wrote a fairly detailed reply to a question which had a couple of poor answers, by the time I had finished one of the originals had been heavily voted up and marked as correct. – user133551 Oct 23 '08 at 8:35
So vote them down and add a comment to each one to explain why. Often that will turn the tide, in my experience. – Jon Skeet Oct 23 '08 at 8:59

Good answers will often link to an external reference that has more information. For example, a question like "How do I do [X] in language [Y]?" will often be answered with a link to the Xify() function of the language [Y] documentation. And if there isn't a link right away, somebody will probably come by later and add one.

Programming is an art; there are always many ways to solve the same problem. Some solutions have a different focus or motivations than others, this is what makes the field interesting.

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I think original research is fine, and I don't see how it's practical to enforce such a rule on stackoverflow.

Also, a lot of the existing programming resources on the web are rubbish anyway, so enforcing one more layer of indirection probably won't help much.

I agree that it's annoying to see accepted incorrect/bad answers, but this would not solve such a problem.

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No, because that's become an issue on Wikipedia.

Citations look great, and in a full academic context they are really important, but in a web context they are almost entirely useless.

For instance you'll have a statement in a Wikipedia article backed up by a link to something with even less verifiability. Fail to cite and twenty bots will edit your page to say citation needed, cite any old rubbish and it will look authentic, but still have no real weight.

I think the general rule of the entire internet is buyer beware. Come to SO for answers, but test them in your code when they're good.

If you see a bad answer vote it down.

Yeah, of course some users pick the wrong answer. Vote them down when they do.

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I've seen wikipedia pages which discuss what a standard says, and obviously name the standard, and have been marked as [citation required]. Isn't a reference to the actual standard enough for them? – Mark Baker Oct 23 '08 at 9:47
Yeah, and some where every single sentence ends with [citation needed]. – Keith Oct 23 '08 at 13:14

The Moderation and voting functions are a reasonable heuristic for quality of the answers, although somewhat skewed towards populism and glib answers entered quickly. If you think something is wrong, correct it, comment on it or vote it down, like Various People have Done to Answers of mine.

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"Original Research" could mean writing some code to try to solve the problem, to test performance or to see what it does. That can be a very good thing, a learning experience for all concerned. Banning research would not be good.

E.g. I learned from the code tests done here

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I think the real problem here is people voting up, when they actually have no idea if it's a good answer. Other people who can see the quality of the answer can then vote it down. As long as that happens, it's okay.

I don't know if we can rely on that. If it's a hard question, there may be very few who can see if it's a good answer. Then "the smart one" would need to comment in a way that makes other people vote down too.

It should work. As long as "the smart people" use the voting feature enough.

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Which would you prefer, something that was actually tested, or something that was copied from Herb Schildt?

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Think the community does a good job of ensuring that answers which don't really deserve to be marked as "the answer". Here's one example I saw recently

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This is not Wikipedia and you are not going to be able to find "independent research" for most of these questions. What would you even consider "independent research" anyway? Does this mean I have to find data from some study that doesn't exist about when to use the ternary operator and when not to?

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For wrong answers, please use the "add comment" feature, as an advanced SO user. That you know an answer is bad, and subsequently downvote it, is not enough to warn other people off. You need to indicate what is the problem with it. Maybe, just maybe, the answer may get fixed.

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