I found "Why StackOverflow sucks and participating there is impossible" on Google.

One point is:

New users are more likely to want to “dip their toe into the water” than to jump into a pool. In Stack land, this would mean adding a comment to an existing answer. But you can’t. You start out with only 1 “rep” which means that you can ask a question or add an answer to an existing question. So if you’re knowledgeable enough to provide a counterpoint to someone else’s poor answer, you have to post it as a new answer… and then you get down voted (lose rep!) for adding a new answer versus just commenting on the original, flawed answer.

and another is:

The intelligent fellow you are, you decide to try and find a question that you can provide a good answer to so you can get real rep points so that you can contribute all over the place. So you dig through tags and search, but you quickly realize that every question that’s not some vague, poorly worded, open ended impossibility has already got 10 answers (ranging from wrong/poor to highly thoughtful, correct). So you start trolling the “New” list hoping to catch a question that you can answer quickly and hopefully get some rep/upvotes so you can actually participate in a useful fashion.

Then you see where Stack is really, really broken. You see you’re not the only one doing this. In the time it takes you to write a thoughtful, correctly documented (and heaven help you if you try and write code and then format it in the terrible editor), 6 people have written short, one line answers as placeholders and then they go back and edit their response multiple times, finally building an appropriate reply (hopefully). So now the question has 7 responses, all in some weird state of edit and your response is lost in the noise and you never get the rep points that you were trying for in the first place (ie. it was all a waste).

I agree with most of his points. So should the community moderators and owners do something to remove all these barriers?

  • 22
    The guy needs 50 rep to post comments. Big deal! Write a question and two answers, and you are there. The thing is that we don't want comments with material that would be downvoted as an answer.
    – Bo Persson
    Mar 30, 2012 at 10:59
  • 2
    related to second point: Fastest Gun in the West Problem
    – gnat
    Mar 30, 2012 at 12:41
  • 12
    Seems I'm a bit late to the party. There's one valid point in the OP, and it's posting placeholders as answers and editing later. I personally downvote these if they're not good answers to begin with. Answers should stand on their own, and I vote based on the state the answer is in at the time that I see it.
    – user102937
    Mar 30, 2012 at 16:07
  • 9
    @BoPersson IF you wrote that as an answer, I would downvote you Jan 8, 2013 at 17:21
  • @Sam - The point is that new users cannot do things that are not reviewed (like posting spam in comments). Once they have proven themselves by posting upvoted questions or answers, they are trusted. When a random user, like me, can get 50 rep a day on average over 2 years, earning 50 points only once isn't that big a hurdle, is it?
    – Bo Persson
    Jan 8, 2013 at 17:43
  • 3
    @BoPersson when there's a question staring you in the face that you need to comment on, it is Jan 8, 2013 at 18:02
  • 1
    I have been dealing with a lot of backlash from the community over my distaste for the lousy quality in comments and answers. SO needs to enable the question askers more so than the people giving answers. They take a very narrow approach to answering a question, and the back-and-forth between asker and answerer should be a flowing discourse, and not contain a lot of frustrating road blocks, like "do you have an example?" NOT EVERY SITUATION HAS AN EXAMPLE! SO admins should seriously reconsider their model. It's borked.
    – cj5
    Feb 4, 2014 at 18:52
  • 1
    I also get the sense that there exists a certain clique within the community here, that empowers each other to gain more points over those who are not "in on the game" so to speak.
    – cj5
    Feb 4, 2014 at 18:54
  • 19
    It's funny to see a discussion tagged question closed as opinion-based...
    – Calmarius
    Feb 7, 2014 at 14:18
  • 6
    This is meta. Isn't this intended for opinion-based posts?
    – CashCow
    Oct 2, 2014 at 15:28
  • 4
    Let me add why I am fed up with Stackexchange sites for which I'll get somehow downvoted for which is problem 1. I don't see what down voting achieves other than negativity and trolling. People are so quick to downvote without even leaving an explanation which is also probably to do with the reputation restrictions. Providing a controversial answer provides a lot more than providing the same answer in different words which is what I see for many questions. However, they will often get downvoted out of existance. I even got a peer-pressure award for deleting one such answer which is what it is. Nov 28, 2014 at 1:13
  • on SO you can't leave a comment about your down vote.. I tried to yesterday.. I put -1 for bla bla and it was rejected.. something about comments shouldn't reference down votes. I made it habit to write why I'm voting down so the asker can correct the question.
    – baash05
    Jan 20, 2015 at 6:37
  • A couple of years on and things don't seem all that bad any more: goofygrin.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/…
    – Bart
    Feb 6, 2015 at 12:00
  • 1
    @Calmarius Even more funny when you realize that 'trigger-happy' voting-to-close was also one of the article's complaints about SO. Dec 23, 2015 at 14:37
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    @DamienGolding I don't see what down voting achieves other than negativity and trolling. I agree. I think it's the reason Facebook does not have a 'dislike' button. Not being upvoted doesn't hurt, but actively being downvoted after having done your best to provide a good answer can be painful. Dec 23, 2015 at 15:01

5 Answers 5


New users are more likely to want to “dip their toe into the water” than to jump into a pool. In Stack land, this would mean adding a comment to an existing answer. But you can’t.

So the user is arguing that providing an answer is "TOO MUCH" of a commitment, fine. How about helping us combat our never ending "information rot" battle, by editing some of these problematic answers and expanding them to be relevant.

The smallest unit of work that gets you rep is an edit. The barrier for editing is non existent. Anyone can edit anything and get 2 rep when they do good.

Participating in meta commentary is dangerous, comments often simply add on to the information rot problem, lead to flame wars and other uncivil behaviour.

Do we really want this kind of person leaving comments on our questions?

"Listen Bob, what you are doing is TOTALLY wrong."

Lots of rambly stuff about how we do everything wrong, and he knows how to do everything right

Fastest Gun In The West has been discussed to death. Search for it.

Terrible editor is a terrible bit of non constructive criticism. Improve XYZ about your editor may be valid. I was expecting syntax highlighting as I was typing, may be valid.

... and so on

  • 3
    I like your point about editing and gaining rep.I do agree
    – Tofeeq
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:25
  • 3
    RE edits: As a relatively new user I'm still cagey about editing other people's posts. I don't feel I know what kind of editing is deemed constructive and what isn't. Also initially I was put off making edits by the big text on the page saying "You do not have editing privileges". Even though there's more explanation there, I wonder how many users would read that one sentence and think, "Well then, why should I bother?"
    – raveturned
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:29
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    @raveturned we are totally open to improving this, what can we do to make this less scary?
    – waffles
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:31
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    @waffles: you are the only person who admit to improve something here.right attitude and it will help to community
    – Tofeeq
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:43
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    Looking around the edit page, I realise there's a wealth of information available that I haven't look at, which probably handles the "what is constructive" question. :) Perhaps all that is needed is a change of wording? To me, "You do not have privileges" sounds like "You cannot do this!" How about "Your edit will be reviewed by a moderator", with a link to a page explaining how edits are reviewed, that approved edits will be attributed to the original editor and pointing out the rep bonus for doing making the edit.
    – raveturned
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:47
  • 2
    @raveturned I like the gist of your suggested copy change, it will have to be "your edit will be reviewed by the community" I think it sends a much nicer, friendlier message, will sort it out on my monday, mind posting a meta ticket so I do not forget?
    – waffles
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:57
  • Done.
    – raveturned
    Mar 30, 2012 at 12:05
  • I have tried to edit old answers on numerous occasions. In many cases I have been rejected. After leaving a comment to the answers OP they happily accepted the edit. The system must be rexamined so that cases where a user edits do not get immediately rejected. Nov 16, 2013 at 20:18
  • How about helping us combat our never ending "information rot" battle I don't see a need for such a battle. New information (much of it bad) is added everyday to SO, but in the end the good info survives. We don't need to close the question for that. Being buried deep in the archives amounts to the same thing. All we need is a good way to find the good info.... I present to you: Google. Dec 23, 2015 at 14:39

A summary of the main points I picked out, and my personal responses to them.

1. Low-rep users can't comment, so comments are posted as answers!

  • The reason that users need to get past a (small) reputation barrier in order to post is to avoid noise. If as a low-rep user you feel an answer is lacking something but you can't comment on it, post a more complete answer. IMO this is fine even if most of it duplicates an answer that already exists - if it has more merit than others, it's more likely to get up-voted.

2. Old questions that aren't poorly worded already have good answers!

  • Creating good answers is the whole point of SO. So the system's working? Excellent! :)

3. People post short one-line answers, then edit them into something worthwhile.

  • Fair point, and I personally don't like it when I see people do this. However, when all the editing is done we have a collection of nice answers, and the best ones will get up-votes. If you post a thoughtful and complete answer, it's likely someone will recognise it.

IMO The most telling comment in the piece is in the final paragraph - my own emphasis added:

So I’m a pretty smart guy and this is why I can’t (and now won’t) participate on StackExchange sites (StackOverflow, OnStartups, etc.). I don’t have the patience to troll the new question list and fight the unwashed masses to try and get my voice heard in order to get a seat at the big boys table. I’m sure that I am not the only one making this same decision.

So basically this guy is annoyed because he can't be recognised from the off for the supposed genius he is? Oh please. SO is a community. If you want to be respected you have to earn it with good questions and good answers. Reputation is something you have to work at just like in the real world - it isn't built overnight.

  • 6
    "However, when all the editing is done we have a collection of nice answers, and the best ones will get up-votes." I've never actually seen that happen. Generally when FGITW happens, you get the first three people who post getting the preponderance of the rep. If you come in 5 minutes after 3 FGITW posts hit, your post probably isn't going to get very many upvotes, no matter how long it is. Especially if those other posters edit their one-liners into real answers, such that their (upvoted) real answers look just as good as your (not-upvoted) real answer.. Apr 28, 2013 at 2:19
  • He says, "we have a collection of nice answers". You say "other posters edit their one-liners into real answers"? Are you stating that your statement is significantly different than his?
    – zylstra
    Dec 29, 2013 at 12:01
  • 1
    So basically this guy is annoyed because he can't be recognised from the off for the supposed genius he is? Oh please. SO is a community. You hit the nerve with this. From his p.o.v. SO is a community of old-timers that have 100K rep and offers no real chance to new-comers to ever 'join the club'. A good community offers everyone a fair chance and doesn't exclude new members from participating, but the way SO is set up you need rep to be able to participate and getting that rep is becoming harder over time. Dec 23, 2015 at 14:43
  • 2
    @zylstra Yes, if you value ego. To see a one-liner comment growing into an answer resembling your own one and getting all the upvotes while yours is ignored is painfull to all but the most humble people. Dec 23, 2015 at 14:45

In my opinion, this is just a rant of a single person, not negative publicity for the entire site. So I disagree with the post.

If you really want to participate, you need to invest some time in the site and you will be able to get about 200 reputation within a week which gives you most of the every day privileges (comment, vote, chat, flag).

You can even edit. Yes you need two accept votes but in return you get +2 reputation points which speeds up the process to get more points.

  • 1
    :It force user to ask question either he has anything to ask or not.That lead to a lot of crappy question on SO.You need 200 reputation as soon as possible so user indulge in wrong way of getting rep.I have observe many user who are doing the same
    – Tofeeq
    Mar 30, 2012 at 11:00
  • 7
    @TofeeqAhmad: The main point of this site is Q&A. This is not a social site where you post comments. If commenting was open to all, we'd become like YouTube and have a n unrelated debate in every single comment thread. Mar 30, 2012 at 11:01
  • 2
    @TofeeqAhmad: Most people come to this site to ask a question anyway. Mar 30, 2012 at 11:02

I don't agree that his charges represent a real problem with the site, but I do agree that there's a real chance that such posts might (might) indicate a public-image problem.

But the response to these claims should not be to assume that they're correct and try to "fix" the "problems" described; it should be to enhance the public perception of Stack Exchange.

Now, in my experience, I think I've heard mostly positive things about Stack Overflow and its brethren. But it's certainly never a bad thing to attempt to draw positive attention to it. This is probably most easily done by sharing exceptional questions/answers elsewhere on the web.

In response to the particular claims made in this post, it seems to me that they all rest on one single faulty assumption: Stack Exchange sites are games, and the point is to win.

Yes, we have rep. Yes, we have badges. And yes, that does make this site something of a game. But the point of Stack Exchange sites is to act as a useful resource--not for users to show off their intelligence.


I expect to get downvoted pretty heavily for this but here goes...

If you do feel the need to downvote could you please explain why

Having used SO for nearly 3 years now I must say that I am getting extremely disillusioned with the arbitary manner in which posts are being closed and downvoted. Furthermore it appears that this situation has become noticeably worse in the last few months – to give some examples from the last few nights

1: A beginner C# user posts a question on why a database isn’t getting updated (ok he left out the conn.Open command and probably should have checked further answers). The users connection details are in Persian so the post gets closed as being too localised ???

2: There appears to be an issue in the AWS S3 restful api where under heavy load it’s returning an internal server error (I’ve seen this issue myself and have a case open with Amazon). User posts a question detailing the error and asking for help and/or mitigation approaches. Instead post is closed for not being constructive. Now the thing is the people who voted to close have never used AWS judging by their answers.

3: User posts question on Programmers SE asking wether he should major in software development or web programming – just looking for help at a very important time in his life. Closed within 5 minutes ?? WTF – isn’t this what Programmers SE is for ?

Perhaps one approach to address this would be only to allow closure / downvotes by people who have already amassed a certain number of points in that topic rather that site wide.

  • 3
    Without links, your examples are useless. However, I'll bite: 1. Sounds like "Please troubleshoot my program for me." 2. Correctly closed; we're a question and answer site, not a discussion forum. 3. Clearly off-topic. There's nothing at all arbitrary about these closures.
    – user102937
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:16
  • 1
    @RH - sorry I don't have the links to hand & apologies if I'm not explaining myself quite well enough, for #1 it was a troubleshoot my program (which quite a few questions are anyway) but shouldn't have been closed for "too localised" #2 user posted restful call & asks why he gets an internal server error - valid question, #3 granted
    – Johnv2020
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:23
  • 3
    1. How would such a highly-specific question ever be of use to anyone else? 2. If the question was really asking for mitigation approaches without a clear path to an actual answer, it is Not Constructive. We prefer questions to actually be answerable, not honeypots for discussion.
    – user102937
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:25

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