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I was one of the many who made the mistake of asking a April Fools question on SO today. It got shut down and removed in about 5 minutes, which is an impressive display of the site's self-moderation powers.

Fun and Joke posts seem inevitable for a programming Q&A site. Programmers are funny people (or at least, people who think they are funny). Though, I can totally understand that if everyone asked April Fools jokes the site would get out of control, same with other joke posts.

I wonder if users could earn a "no-points" posting option once they reach a certain threshold of points (2k?)? Such a "no-points" post could earn the user no up-votes (possibly could earn downvotes to deal with true troll or offensive questions) or badges. It would just be used for sharing a chuckle. Having it be contingent on a certain level of reputation would hopefully keep it from being abused. It might also be useful for other types of questions.


"This is not a discussion board, this is a place for questions that can be answered!"

...however, having built an amazing community for Programmers, it seems like some discussion-board behavior should be more tolerated... Maybe we need a stackoverflow alternate universe site that is just for discussion, not for questions and not even for meta?

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FWIW, CWing April Fools posts used to be required. I posted a question last year that got closed within minutes because I forgot to CW it. Then someone else reposted it with CW and it got a decent number of votes. – Pops Apr 1 '11 at 18:42
Also, don't forget if the post gets deleted you'll lose any rep you gained at the next recalculation and have an excess of badges to make up. – ChrisF Apr 1 '11 at 18:43
Seriously people, why on earth is this downvoted? It is both clear AND useful. I cannot see how this is not exactly what describes to be what meta SO is for... If you want to downvote this have the courtesy to explain why. – jlarson Apr 1 '11 at 18:56
Downvotes on Meta mean that people have chosen to select the arrow pointing down instead of the one that points up. – random Apr 1 '11 at 18:58
You also have to take into account, Joe, that many people prefer the downvote animations today. ♪ – Grace Note Apr 1 '11 at 19:01
I [...] made the mistake [...] Agreed. I wonder if users could earn a "no-points" posting option [...] Because you made a mistake? (Downvote indicating I don't agree, as usual on Meta.) – Arjan Apr 1 '11 at 19:03
The downvotes are trying to balance out the upvotes and turn this into a "no-points" post. (yes I know you gain more rep points if the up and downvotes are balanced, it's called "humor") – CanSpice Apr 1 '11 at 19:13
@random & @CanSpice - very good! @Arjan - fair enough, on SO general downvotes are more "you're a troll" at least as far as custom goes, perhaps they are less negative on meta... – jlarson Apr 1 '11 at 19:19
On SO downvotes are also for bad questions, but that's a different discussion altogether. (See also How do comment @replies work?) – Arjan Apr 1 '11 at 19:44
If this is another April Fool's joke, it's not a very funny one. – Aarobot Apr 2 '11 at 4:05
possible duplicate of What are "Community Wiki" posts? – Aarobot Apr 2 '11 at 4:06

Your suggestion already exists... it's called "Community Wiki".

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They still earn badges though. – ChrisF Apr 1 '11 at 18:42
@ChrisF: True, but I don't think badges are as important as reputation. Not that I find reputation important you know... ;-) – fretje Apr 1 '11 at 18:44
You can't make questions CW any more as the question's author, though. – Pëkka Apr 1 '11 at 18:44
Also, Community Wiki still gets votes, and votes are what's important. – Grace Note Apr 1 '11 at 18:46
@Pekka: Wow, I didn't even know that was changed... I don't understand why. – fretje Apr 1 '11 at 18:47
See here and here for the explanation of the CW change, fretje. – Grace Note Apr 1 '11 at 18:51
@Grace: Thanks for clarifying! I remember those questions from when they were first asked, but never saw the important change (as I have been "off the grid" for a while ;-) – fretje Apr 1 '11 at 18:56
and! – Trufa Apr 1 '11 at 18:57
@Trufa: I don't think the guys over at will like this kind of questions anymore than the SO guys do. – fretje Apr 1 '11 at 18:59
@fretje, I guess I should have been more explicit about the joking nature of my comment. Imagine a smiley after my comment :) – Trufa Apr 1 '11 at 19:06
@Trufa - nope - not seeing a smiley :) – ChrisF Apr 1 '11 at 19:34
@ChrisF: Are you seeing the unicorns at least? – Trufa Apr 1 '11 at 19:38
@Trufa - not for most of the day as my browser window wasn't wide enough. – ChrisF Apr 1 '11 at 19:39
@Trufa - and only on the original trilogy sites – ChrisF Apr 1 '11 at 19:40

I don't think you would want a checkbox that users could check. I think in addition to not gaining rep for questioner and answerer, these posts would be understood to be shortlived (a single day?) and the system would also need to auto-reject flags and close votes on them. That was a big issue, as I understand it, with today's jokes, at least one of which I enjoyed tremendously (and apparently so did 25 or more people who learned of it from me.) So let's try a thought experiment - some sort of status for a post that goes beyond CW to be temporarily immune from the usual self-moderating of the site. You could post your question, then immediately flag it and ask a moderator to bestow this status on it. It could be an April Fools joke, Jon Skeet's birthday, woo-hoo C++0x has reached FDIS, or whatever else is raising emotion in our community. Maybe only diamonds could bestow it, maybe it would take some number of folks to agree, somehow there would have to be a high bar. Because otherwise you could post political stuff like "don't forget to vote for X today to make sure Y doesn't get to be president" or "please donate money to X cause today" or even stuff that wasn't meant in good faith.

And then when I carry this thought experiment through, and I think about the consequences of something getting past the 7 or 11 or however many gatekeepers who would have to make sure it could be exempt, what if it was truly offensive to a lot of people? You've deliberately taken away the ability to flag, close, or otherwise self moderate it. That could be really unpleasant. I mean people complain about unicorns. People will complain. You either write code that prevents those complaints (and oh wow that's scary) or you take stuff away after semi-valid complaints (this isn't a site for jokes) just to stop the flow of them.

So who thinks they can design the code to prevent the complaints?

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Kate, this is a thoughtful explanation of why this might not be a good idea... thank you – jlarson Apr 1 '11 at 19:20
I just wrote the code to prevent the complaints. However, since I am still having serious compiler problems, we'll probably never know if it works. – James McNellis Apr 1 '11 at 19:31
or, y'know, just keep that stuff on meta where it belongs.. – Jeff Atwood Apr 2 '11 at 0:23

You really should have asked the fun stuff here on meta.

Or possibly on Programmers; I personally would be more willing to give an April Fools' joke post a pass on Programmers than on Stack Overflow proper.

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To be honest, keeping Programmers on topic can be a bit on the challenging side as it is due to its subjective nature without sanctioned joke posts added into the mix. The community isn't as trigger-happy as on SO, though, so an average joke question would have more of a chance at survival. – Adam Lear Apr 2 '11 at 2:40
@anna as a one-day-a-year thing, it seems more tenable on programmers. I still think it's best on meta though to be clear. – Jeff Atwood Apr 2 '11 at 5:36

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