This community wiki question is two years old and had less than 1200 views when I shared the link on reddit/r/programming. It originally had a 100 point bounty. I shared the link because that is encouraged, and I thought the question would have a broad interest.

It did. It got more than 16,000 views in two days. Then the question was closed as off topic, even though it is arguably practical, answerable, and unique to the programming profession, and it has been just fine for the past two years. The only problem is that it is a little open-ended.

  1. The question would not have been closed had the link not been shared.
  2. If you look at questions ordered by votes, you'll find dozens of questions with similar open-ended answers.

Should stackoverflow reward link sharing by closing questions? Isn't increased traffic good for the site?

  • Wow! You people are brutal! 4 downvotes in 13 views. I wonder if it's possible to get a negative reputation. :-)
    – xpda
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:08
  • 6
    Voting works differently on meta -- don't worry too much about downvotes. :)
    – sarnold
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:14
  • 4
    Nope - the lower limit is 1 ;) However, votes on Meta work slightly differently. As well as the usual meaning they have the extra (meta) meaning of "I agree/I disagree" or "I support this/I'm against this"
    – ChrisF Mod
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:15
  • I'm confused. Why not just migrate this to programmers.stackexchange.com? There's clearly a lot of useful information there. I agree that it's not a fit for SO, but are we really just going to flush it all?
    – Wayne
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:35
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    @lwburk Because the scope of Programmers isn't "everything that's closed on SO", despite what SO users seem to think. List questions are bad, everywhere, always Dec 9, 2011 at 0:09
  • 1
    @Micahel - I don't have any strong opinion about where this lives. It's just that deleting it forever seems wasteful. A system that destroys useful content is broken. We're not running out of bits.
    – Wayne
    Dec 9, 2011 at 0:49
  • 3
    @lwburk "A system that destroys useful content is broken" Please see Yahoo answers if you want a site that accepts anything and everything. By maintaining a laser sharp focus on a specific topic, Stack Overflow has been able to attract and keep highly experienced programmers who would otherwise leave due to noise about problems that aren't on topic. Stackoverflow is not everything to everyone - there are plenty of other sites out there (for instance, quora) which are more than happy to field such questions. There's no need to force stackoverflow to do so as well.
    – Pollyanna
    Dec 9, 2011 at 5:12
  • @Adam - Bah. That's bunk. The answers given there are orders of magnitude better than the average Yahoo Answers answer. If it makes you guys feel good, then fine, but you're not moving content to a "lesser" site, you're just removing it. I would be fine if you'd move the content to Yahoo or Reddit or some other site somebody on this page will make fun of. Deleting it entirely makes no sense.
    – Wayne
    Dec 9, 2011 at 7:30
  • @adam - btw, my first comment said that I agree this isn't appropriate for SO. Please don't argue against a straw man.
    – Wayne
    Dec 9, 2011 at 7:31
  • @lwburk I'm not sure Adam Davis was arguing against a straw man, as his argument applies to the SE network overall; that question isn't appropriate for any SE site, because the one that it would be on-topic for, does not allow open-ended questions like that. Dec 9, 2011 at 20:16

5 Answers 5


You simply helped uncover a question that, before you brought it to attention, was allowed for historic reasons, not because its a good question.

The Reddit traffic probably triggered some users to pitch in with their opinion as an answer, rather than a comment (they're from Reddit remember!) which reminded some users why these questions are such a poor match for Stack Exchange. C'est la vie


Increased traffic is not inherently good or bad. It's a multiplier. One spammer is bad; a group of spammers is much worse. Having Jon Skeet around is good; having Jon, Darin, Marc and BalusC all active at the same time is much better.

The worry here is that if you attract a lot of viewers to the site to view an off-topic question, many of those people may believe that SO is just for those kinds of questions, which will introduce quality issues and lead to content disputes that will distract from the real work of the site: programming Q&A.

I barely had to get past the title of the question you used in this specific case to know that it's inappropriate for modern-day Stack Overflow. It is off-topic because it's about law, not programming. On top of that, it's not constructive, because it's a discussion/list/poll hybrid.


No, it is not on topic. It does not ask for a specific answer. It is a question in which any answer would appear to be "correct" and if you look in the FAQ under questions you should not ask, the first bullet point is:

• every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

Stack Overflow is not the place for creating lists of things.


The question is a problem that a programmer might have.

It is not a programming problem. There is no way to solve this problem using code.

Programmers have all sorts of problems, but only programming problems are allowed.


The answer is:

(a) No. Stackoverflow should not reward link sharing by closing questions. Stackoverflow does a good job directing user behavior through a combination of carrots and sticks. Badges for sharing links are carrots. Question closures are sticks. When you close a question as a direct result of link sharing, for whatever reason, it is a stick beating on a carrot. That is counterproductive and bad for the site.

(b) Yes. Traffic is good for the site. That's why there are badges for link sharing. It's easy to weed out bad questions that come as a result of increased traffic. It's much harder to get new traffic from sources other than Google searches.

I did not put this question here to complain about this particular question being closed. If I cared that much about it I'd put it on my own web site. I put this here because something is wrong with Stackoverflow. It can be fixed with a modicum of common sense.

  • -1 Not much is wrong with StackOverflow. I would have voted to close that question, too. Dec 9, 2011 at 4:04

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