Stack Overflow is a great resource, but it is dominated by terse questions and answers that are often so cryptic that it takes an expert to understand many of the "answers."

I think that users should be prompted to enter a more complete description of their problem and the experts should refuse to answer any of the questions unless the context, and complete code is provided.

I am really tired of seeing an answer to a question that was so sketchy that it is hard to use the solution. Most techs, like myself, have to bridge a huge topical area and we cannot be experts in all the areas that we have to cover.

Come on people, make this a usable resource instead of a little club. Use the same standards that you would have to use if you were creating readable documentation.

  • 6
    We actually try to get people to post clear and complete questions and answers. Jul 19 '12 at 19:54
  • To be fair, you don't know how long the OP lurked. Or perhaps the OP created a second account for anonymity purposes.
    – Pops
    Jul 19 '12 at 19:54
  • True, @Pop, true that. Jul 19 '12 at 19:58
  • 6
    I think you should enter a more complete description of your problem with StackOverFlow. Because you're not really making any concrete points, just "this stuff is hard, man". Jul 19 '12 at 19:59
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    Can you provide a link to an example question, so that we can discuss specific points instead of hand-waving about vague generalities?
    – user102937
    Jul 19 '12 at 20:02
  • 4
    This question started off badly, and conditions are not getting any better; the post is mostly content-free, being primarily a rant, so I'm closing.
    – user102937
    Jul 19 '12 at 20:21

As it happens, there are quite a few people who contribute not just by answering questions, but by suggesting improvements or even editing questions directly to make them more clear. A number of badges (copy editor, reviewer, proofreader, etc.) are available to encourage that sort of thing.

There are over a million SO users (hardly a "little club"), and most of them seem able to understand the questions and answers pretty well; when they don't, they can always comment and ask for clarification.

It appears from your profile that you've been a SO member for one day or less. Perhaps you've been lurking or posting under a different account for longer, but either way you seem not to have noticed that a great deal of the SO infrastructure is devoted to promoting good questions (and answers) and improving not so good ones.

Finally, yours would be a much better question if you followed your own advice and provided a more definite description of the problem and the solution you propose:

  • Can you point to some specific examples of questions that are too "terse" and answers that are "cryptic"?

  • Can you be more specific about exactly what you're proposing?

  • How would you change the existing SO moderation system to "prompt" users to enter a more complete description?

  • What mechanism beyond the existing crowd-sourced community moderation do you propose to recognize incomplete descriptions?

  • I think that the only change that needs to be made is that users should be prompted to update their questions with their completed code they used, derived from the solutions given to them. Jul 29 '12 at 18:46

We do attempt to maintain a high standard of quality. I can attest that this site has a level of maintenance that I've never seen elsewhere. The trouble is, it's like herding LOLCats. It's literally impossible to create this perfect documentation-like quality like you describe when anybody can contribute for free.

My solution to your problem is to engage in the site. Keep flagging things, editing posts, asking and answering questions, contributing. If you do, and even if you seem not to have made a difference, you have at least you have improved the place. (Think Pascal's Gambit for the Internet-savvy programmer).

  • 1
    Well... Sort of. Granted, crowdsourcing a collection of programming knowledge is never going to produce MSDN-style documentation, but the quality of the material here is far and above superior to that of most online forums.
    – user102937
    Jul 19 '12 at 20:06
  • Don't get me wrong. I love what is happening here. I also love the fact that people will take their own time to answer difficult questions. The problem I am having is with the users who get their problem solved but then do not take the time to do a follow-up, posting the completed details of the solution provided and how they used it. I recently posted a question on Server Fault and it was answered promptly. I am in the process of implementing the solution and when I get done, I will post the WHOLE set of code to the answer. Jul 29 '12 at 18:41
  • I wholeheartedly support your actions. I think what you're doing is a great thing.
    – gobernador
    Jul 30 '12 at 4:25

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