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What's the difference between Usenet and Stack Overflow?

I heard that Usenet shaped the Internet to be a liberal place where every voice got to be heard. Why would I leave my historical place and start using Stack Overflow?

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This question seems legitimate, and yet for some reason my troll-radar is going off. – mmyers Mar 18 '10 at 22:01
@mmyers -- perhaps because of this:… – tvanfosson Mar 18 '10 at 22:11
@Neil don't forget your flags, mister! – alex Mar 18 '10 at 22:36
I just accidentally @Neil's comment. Apparently I am not allowed to flag something as offensive without completely destroying it in the process - sorry Neil. :) – Sampson Mar 18 '10 at 22:59
@Neil: Had you known your memes (, you would have known that I accidentally deleted it. – Sampson Mar 18 '10 at 23:02
+1 For a legitimately good question about how SO stands up to traditional forms of community that veteran-developers are familiar with. – Sampson Mar 18 '10 at 23:14
mmyers: Nice comment, honesty is beautiful. – user144819 Mar 19 '10 at 6:38

I think I can speak with some authority, as I still appear to be the 5th all-time poster on the Usenet group comp.lang.c++. And the answer is that SO is superior because of:

  • Very superior user interface compared to any Usenet reader

  • Almost immediate answers. Ignore the immediate answers though, and wait for the next ones. In any case, errors will be quickly pointed out.

  • Group moderation by the same people that ask questions and answer them means that trolls & parasites for the most part get shut down quickly

  • in some areas (like C#) I think SO is becoming the default technical source

On the other hand:

  • Usenet works better for discussions.

  • If you really want a complex question resolved, you are still probably better going to Usenet, particularly to the moderated newsgroups, or at least using both Usenet and SO.

My 2 cents, of course.

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I agree. SO is MUCH better for quick answers. – uɐɯsO uɐɥʇɐN Mar 19 '10 at 2:13
Is a fast answer always good? Sounds like SO value brain dumping. It kind of smells, if you excuse my language. I think it could be a problem when you are a Cobol hacker. I actually feel like a troll, no matter what I ask, just because I don't spell anything with the letters C and #. If you don't like C#, find your community elsewhere, this should be mention, I think. – user144819 Mar 19 '10 at 6:34
Interesting to hear. I often think people who say they are seeking discussion don't actually want discussion, they view it as an unavoidable step on the way to getting the answer they need. Still, our style of discussion is really more about editing and updating existing questions/answers so they stay fresh and useful, and don't end up as permanently engraved granite tombstones on the internet. – Jeff Atwood Mar 19 '10 at 9:05
Depends on your definition of "superior interface", of ncourse. – grawity Mar 19 '10 at 15:56
For some values of "superior" :) JK, by the way - IMHO StackExchange interface is one of the best user interfaces I have every laid my eyes on, and I usually analyze interfaces both as someone with a lot of UI design experience AND someone who's taken grad level classes in UI design – DVK Mar 21 '10 at 21:20
And no, i wasn't sucking up to Jeff :) – DVK Mar 21 '10 at 21:21

There is a mechanism in place to police endless repeats.

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@user: As opposed to what? I've seen correct but deep posts of which most people are ignorant get broadly panned or even flames on the usenet. That's always a risk. Here you can check the users profile and see that if they have specialists badges in the appropriate fields and how their other posts have fared. That's not fool proof, but it is easier that trying to find a usenet users history. – dmckee Mar 18 '10 at 21:56
@user Maybe someone will downvote out of ignorance, but it's hard for a whole community to be totally wrong. Good answers almost always surface to the top. – alex Mar 18 '10 at 21:57
But computer knowledge is so big. There is endless cases where one dude knows the right answer. Isn't there a risk that, that guy will be voted down as if he was totally retarded? – user144819 Mar 19 '10 at 18:14

Stack Overflow is a peer-review system that offers quality-control of all code provided. That happens to be one of my favorite qualities. This is contrary to the standard methods in which people find help online. The (initially uneducated person) is given a couple block of code to copy/paste by another (potentially uneducated person) and that is that. On Stack Overflow, the (initially uneducated) user is fortunate enough to have the assistance of many other users to help him decide which solution is the best via their votes, comments, etc.

Additionally, Stack Overflow* is generally a very user-friendly environment, with a careful ear to abuse and disrespect. We try to keep the floor clean enough for interns and experts to congregate with little-or-no bloodshed. The community is able to assist in this task via a slew of reporting tools, access to some mod-level information, and (if conversation is necessary) personal access to moderators themselves via emails or

And lastly, the thing that really made this place what it is; we've got the concerted effort of two of programming's most-famous personalities (Jeff Atwood/Joel Spolsky) behind the veil making the system operate so well.

*Not Meta, this place is just crazy.

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"Not Meta, this place is just crazy." Yeah, well. There has to be some equivalent of alt.peeves. – dmckee Mar 18 '10 at 21:35
uh, are jeff and joel like gods? – user144819 Mar 18 '10 at 21:42
@user144819 The answer to that depends on who you ask ;) To the majority of us here, they are successful programmers who do great work and have a lot of wisdom in the business of software. – Sampson Mar 18 '10 at 21:45
Ok, this place is exciting. I have to meet jeff and joel. Where do they live? – user144819 Mar 18 '10 at 21:52
Jeff is (usually) in CA, and Joel is (usually) in NY. They do happen to meet online occasionally to do a podcast though - – Sampson Mar 18 '10 at 21:54
They also seem to origanize a lot of conferences (at least Joel does) IIRC. Not sure how that'll change now that he's retired from blogging :) – DVK Mar 21 '10 at 21:23

No, at least so far.

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What is wrong with you guys... no strange times.. – user144819 Mar 18 '10 at 21:54
@user -- I was only sort-of joking. One nice thing is that, unlike Usenet, the site tends to stay on-topic and relatively flame-free (again, unlike Usenet). In retrospect, you can probably think of meta as the SO equivalent of the alt.* hierarchy, but even here we don't usually stray too far. – tvanfosson Mar 18 '10 at 21:57
...I should have added "except on Friday...and it's always Friday in Iceland". – tvanfosson Mar 19 '10 at 2:00
OK, now I forever will have the "MSO ==" thing in my head. Thank you tvanfosson :( – DVK Mar 21 '10 at 21:22

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