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I want to know how to deal with this.

According to w3fools

We feel, though, that W3Schools is harming the community with inaccurate information. Like any other authoritative educational resource, W3Schools should both hold itself to, and be held to, the highest standards.
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W3Schools.com is not affiliated with the W3C in any way. Members of the W3C have asked W3Schools to explicitly disavow any connection in the past, and they have refused to do so.

So if this is not a good resource should we still allow it here ?

In terms of providing good answers if one were to recommend w3schools and information given there is inaccurate then the OP (who asked for the advice in the first place) would come back with more questions because he/she learnt the wrong principles for web development. Which is good for us as a Q&A more questions (because we rock at Q&A), but bad because the first time around we should not have even recommended w3schools. (<--misleading line, I just mean that it is always great to help answer questions, I misstepped what I was trying to convey and created confusion with the previous statement).

I am sure in the years to come w3schools will have a change of heart and provide proper content, but for now is there anything that can be done to prevent giving out bad resources like w3schools.

Or would this be seen as bias towards what a person can and cannot learn ?

If it is would it not be for the greater good to help a user not go down the path of bad practice ?

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Let's add roseindia.net to discouraged resources as well (at least, for Java EE in general). –  BalusC Apr 16 '11 at 23:42
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We can't block it, it would deny people all the free upvotes from their incessant w3fools comment links –  Michael Mrozek Apr 16 '11 at 23:44
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Here's the situation from SO. User asks about link where to start learning mysql (in php). Another user posts SQL tutorial from w3schools (that's entire tutorial not one specific page; same tutorial with SQL injections). I've commented that answer with two more links from official MySQL and PHP: MySQL websites with notice that this two official links are better and more reliable than w3schools link. Minut later he starts downvoting my answers randomly!? I didn't mention anything against his link and did not mention w3fools.. What can I do... to fight back that way... No, that's not solution. –  Wh1T3h4Ck5 Apr 17 '11 at 1:26
    
@Wh1 I got lost with your scenario, but I think I got the gist of it. –  phwd Apr 17 '11 at 1:44
    
Hmm... w3fools doesn't seem to provide any exacting reasons or exact inaccuracies. It's rather vague, has no citations, and seems wholly biased (which, of course, it is). Never base your facts on biased opinions; especially without credentials. –  Stop forgetting my accounts... Sep 23 '13 at 4:48
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4 Answers 4

up vote 44 down vote accepted

So if this is not a good resource should we still allow it here ?

Yes, we should still allow it here.

When you give an answer on Stack Overflow you don't just link out to another site and say "all the answers are over there." You give a complete answer with a link for support. If specific pages on w3schools aren't accurate, just don't link to those specific pages for reference. Any correct information on w3schools (and I don't see a number on w3fools anywhere saying what percent is incorrect) should still serve as a perfectly fine example.

In short, we should be thinking for ourselves when deciding what specific page is a good reference, not relying on a blanket statement made by a 3rd party.

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Agree, and I personally think that we should flag comments that force we3fools as God's word, in case where we3schools's resource is appropriate one to solve OP problem. –  Wh1T3h4Ck5 Apr 17 '11 at 0:40
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Sorry I was writing "we3" instead of "w3" :) I'm using "we3_" as table prefix in my current project, so that might be a reason for this mistake. –  Wh1T3h4Ck5 Apr 17 '11 at 1:02
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Thanks for clearing that up for me. –  phwd Apr 17 '11 at 1:38
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Yeah, uh DOWN WITH VOTING FOR ANSWER'S OVER HERE POSTS!!! –  bobobobo Apr 23 '11 at 3:54
    
I'm glad you said this, because i've used W3Schools to get answers that were instructive. To limit ANY avenue that would get us out of a bind (and we've all been to that frustrating well before) is not to be so casually dismissed. –  Neurothustra May 26 '13 at 23:18
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The voting system is specifically in place to handle cases where someone is providing misleading or incorrect answers because they are citing an unreliable resource or otherwise. Down-vote answers you think are not useful. Leave a comment explaining why.

Why isn't this enough?

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You are right it should be enough to leave a comment and downvote, just wanted to know what others thought. –  phwd Apr 17 '11 at 1:39
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Though that might be true, I've seen people down-vote just for seeing a w3scools link, that is no reason enough to down-vote IMO. If what ths link says it's wrong, you should down-vote, if it's right, NO. –  Trufa Apr 17 '11 at 3:24
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I agree with you in principle (kind of, but probably not in the way you think), but it just doesn't work in practice. What you're suggesting is that Stack Overflow institute a policy that says, "One may link only to content which we ourselves have deemed appropriate." This is bad. Something like this could very well be the death knell for Stack Overflow as a community.

  • Who decides which content is appropriate for linking?
  • Who maintains that list?
  • What is the governance of that list?
  • Is it difficult to add to it?
  • Is it difficult to remove from it?

The only way to win is not to play. As @Mark Trapp stated, the voting system takes care of this. I have even linked to W3Schools in answers of my own (many moons ago), and the comments/votes corrected me. The system, as currently designed, self-corrected. It's not perfect, primarily because many questions just don't get enough attention to get a large enough sample of contributors. But it works very well when compared to, well, innumerable other aggregators of developer knowledge.

And another thing...

In terms of providing good answers if one were to recommend w3schools and information given there is inaccurate then the OP (who asked for the advice in the first place) would come back with more questions because he/she learnt the wrong principles for web development. Which is good for us as a Q&A more questions (because we rock at Q&A), but bad because the first time around we should not have even recommended w3schools.

I completely disagree with a point you made here. It is in no way in the best interests of Stack Overflow to provide content that's just bad enough to get people to keep coming back for more.

First of all, coming back for more isn't really a motivation. Sure, we like to foster a community here. But what you imply is a model for roping in customers. We don't have customers. Not like that, anyway. And we don't want to apply a kind of vendor lock-in model to try to retain users.

Second, people most definitely won't keep coming back if they can't get really good information and expertise here. That kind of vendor lock-in model incites content providers (people answering questions) to hold back and not provide top-notch content. This is entirely against what Stack Overflow actually does foster and provide, which is the best content we can manage to provide. (Well, we try anyway.)

It took the site a few years to reach 1M questions. It took us a few months to reach 1.5M questions. By numbers alone, the current model works quite well. We don't need tricky marketing tactics to compete with anybody.

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Yes you are right about not participating and being neutral. I never meant to imply SO was using/ should use this as a model to hook users. You went on a tangent with that one. That's my fault for placing that misleading line and not explaining what I meant. Sorry about that. –  phwd Apr 17 '11 at 1:43
    
@phwd: Ya, I guess I'm in something of a rant mode today on that bit. I've been coming across a lot of beginner questions lately which amount to nothing more than "please teach me how to program" and it's becoming difficult to provide quality content under that sort of model :) –  David Apr 17 '11 at 1:51
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So if this is not a good resource should we still allow it here ?

It should not be banned.

Downvotes reglement such postings quite well. But that has recently become a bit of an inside joke, and usually quite an unpleasant surprise for the unsuspecting noob.

Ideally there should be a soft ban, an alert() when posting answers with w3schools links. Practically that's not a big enough issue to warrant UI garbage or any development time.

Boring old commenting and pointing out the flaws is sufficient. Like Bill-the-Lizard said, there are even some pages on w3schools that are factually correct. It would just be nice if people wouldn't cast that many unwarranted downvotes at once (or without checking if the linked page is really of the harmful kind). Again commenting helps most I'd think.

The only reason to downvote would be if the w3schools link is pretty much the whole answer. Single-line answers (what they mostly are) should be comments in any case. (OTOH few moderators actually react to flagging regarding that, so..?)

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There's not a lot we can do other than comment and downvote single-line answers. If a link does answer a question, no matter how poorly, I'm very reluctant to just remove it. –  Bill the Lizard Apr 17 '11 at 2:36
    
Understand. As a user I'm also reluctant to downvote only because of that. Just got on my nerves lately when googling brought up such thin answers on SO. –  mario Apr 17 '11 at 2:47
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