I have joined only two days ago. I have had questions about Hadoop and big data which I have not been able to find answers to in the last month that I have been going through dozens of article and tutorials. I ask them here, and an old user makes a sarcastic comment about one of the questions, and I replied to it. Then suddenly both my questions are closed.

You can check my questions and see that they are perfectly good questions.

Now, my question is how does Stack Overflow try to make certain that old users don't simply gang up on anyone that they don't like?

The Internet is great for its democratic value, and that is why I raise the same question about Stack Overflow.

I just wanted to add that I really appreciate all the replies to my cry baby complaint. I learned a lot about Stack Overflow, and hopefully other new users can find this discussion useful and constructive to see how things work here. But I hope that experienced users stop judging new comers harshly.

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    Have you read the FAQ? stackoverflow.com/faq – Pekka Dec 13 '12 at 22:35
  • The first thing that I do when I go to any site is read their FAQ, and I did read stackoverflow's FAQ. – Ardeshir P. Dec 13 '12 at 22:39
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    The FAQ should explain why the three (most recent) questions of yours that were closed were, in fact, closed. In particular, read this item – Andrew Barber Dec 13 '12 at 22:41
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    Democracy is guaranteed (at least in some level) by voting, as you can see, most of your question are voted to be closed by 5 sophisticated user. fairly enough. – yorkw Dec 13 '12 at 22:51
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    @Ardeshir I'm not actually seeing that question anywhere in your account, can you point to where it is? I see two questions that have downvotes, and both fit the "open ended" bill. They are not bad questions as such, but SO has, in a long painful democratic process, decided that it requires a great amount of specificity for a question to work here. – Pekka Dec 13 '12 at 22:57
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    Probably this one, it is too general IMO, If you asking something like "what is a Java object?" it is very likely to be closed very soon, though personally I am against down-voting the question if it is the first question of new user. – yorkw Dec 13 '12 at 23:02
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    @ArdeshirP. That is sort of the problem. If a question is so simple it can be answered by a trivial amount of research, we don't really need to add it to SO. – user200500 Dec 13 '12 at 23:11
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    Well, Plato warned us that all democracies are doomed to degenerate to mob rule eventually... (I'm not helping, am I?) – yannis Dec 13 '12 at 23:12
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    Of course, Programmers.SE is much more democratic and transparent. I recommend the asking of all SO questions that are undemocratically closed there. – user200500 Dec 13 '12 at 23:15
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    Dear Asad, I have been going through long documents, articles and tutorials for about a month now. There are some questions which are simply not answered in these documentations despite the fact that they are trivial; mostly due to the fact that experienced users of a technology don't put themselves in the shoe of a new user of that technology. Also, Hadoop and NoSQL seem to be one of the worst technologies when it comes to good documentation. – Ardeshir P. Dec 13 '12 at 23:17
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    As a little experiment, I decided to Google "What is Mapreduce," and came up with this, which seems to be specifically written for the layman. The search turns up many other useful articles for the beginner, including this duplicate Stack Overflow question. – user102937 Dec 13 '12 at 23:24
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    My advice would be to ignore those feelings for the moment, and concentrate on reading the answers people have given you here very carefully. Your questions that were closed were not exceptionally bad, but weren't particularly good either. People could, perhaps, have given you some advice in comments on how to fix them, but you can't really blame them for not doing so (it's their own time they're volunteering). Also, although I can see how the Wikipedia comment is a bit obnoxious, I wouldn't to call it sarcastic, some minimal prior research is required, the comment just pointed that out. – yannis Dec 13 '12 at 23:35
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    @Asad Just to demonstrate how democratic ProgSE is, I'll put the length of your suspension to a vote. What do you think people, 1 year or 2? ;P – yannis Dec 13 '12 at 23:37
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    @ArdeshirP. Then you need to include that information in your questions, so that you can demonstrate to the community that you've tried to help yourself by doing some fundamental research. Without that information, your question reads like a "teach me the basics" tutorial request, which is not really what we're here for. – user102937 Dec 13 '12 at 23:59
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    @ArdeshirP. That's very considerate, but we still need you to show your work. – user102937 Dec 14 '12 at 0:17

I am not going to comment on the quality of your questions, since juergen has already addressed that pretty well.

Regarding the comments, snarkiness and sarcasm are discouraged on SO, but sometimes a little bit of wit at the expense of others does tend to happen. Don't worry, you'll grow a thicker skin after a while of being here. If any comments are outright abusive you can flag them for moderator attention and someone will deal with it. Harassment or abuse are not tolerated on SO.

In the meantime, you can try to look through the sarcasm to the point being made. Very often there is advice you can benefit from that is couched in a somewhat unpleasant tone. Swallow the bitter pill and accept the advice anyway, it'll help you ask better questions.

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    Yeah, good points. The user could (and should) clearly have been welcomed in a much nicer way, and explained politely that open-ended questions are not a good fit for the site. His questions are thoughtful and not bad at all, it's just their format that doesn't work here – Pekka Dec 13 '12 at 22:54
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    Thank you Asad and Pekka. I will keep your advice in mind when I post my future questions. – Ardeshir P. Dec 13 '12 at 23:13

Your question was:

I'm a newbie to Hadoop, and I'm trying to understand the terms and technologies involved. Here are my questions:

What is Map/Reduce? Can I consider Map/Reduce a NoSQL solution? Or is it a programming pattern created to be utilized with Hadoop to create NoSQL solutions?

Is Map/Reduce specific to Hadoop or competitors to Hadoop such as Amazon dynamo also use Map/Reduce?

Is there a competition to Map/Reduce? Do developers in practice use Map/Reduce directly a lot, or do they mostly use higher level solutions such as Hbase or PIG?

The sarcastic comment was

What happened when you read the Wikipedia article that's the first Google result?

Your response was

What is this? Mafia dictatorship? Those are perfectly legitimate questions, and I will contact stackoverflow about this.

I'm ignoring the second comment by another user as I think it was in response to something else, I'm not sure how to place it.

There are a couple of problems with this.

  • the comment may have been a bit rude, but come on. Did you do any previous research? If you did, what did you find and where did you get stuck? Did you check out the product and Wikipedia pages of the products you mention? If not, why not?

  • also it's multiple questions in one, which is a no-no on SO (although to be fair, the FAQ could be clearer about this).

  • questions like "is there competition to product x?" are, while perfectly valid, deemed off topic on Stack Overflow for a number of reasons. SO requires questions to have a practical focus and to be able to have a definite answer.

Some of the items in your question might make good questions nevertheless if you flesh them out, show what you have tried, and where you are stuck. When somebody asks for clarification on a term and shows that they have been working hard to understand it, the question will usually be very well received. We just expect some amount of visible previous effort.

  • Doesn't seem like such a sarcastic comment. My comment would have been "What can we tell you that en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MapReduce hasn't already answered? – user102937 Dec 13 '12 at 23:18
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    Actually, there was another flagged and deleted comment by Ardeshir on this question, which might have contributed to some of the negative votes here: "I've been reading articles about NoSQL and Big data for a month. They never answer all your questions. But you probably never understood the learning process, and never will when you add a simplistic comment like that." – Brad Larson Dec 13 '12 at 23:18
  • @Brad thanks for that - that indeed explains a lot... – Pekka Dec 13 '12 at 23:18
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    Still, I am surprised that this and their previous question were as poorly received as they were. The questions themselves are reasonably well-written, even if the scope is a bit outside that of this site. The close votes are reasonable, but the large number of downvotes seems a bit harsh. – Brad Larson Dec 13 '12 at 23:23
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    @Brad that was the answer to a rather sarcastic comment right of the bat. I mean I spend half an hour and try to come up with good questions and break them down in 2 questions so that I don't post them all at once, and the very first comment worded really sarcastically pointing me to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the first place I go to when I start looking at a new technology; I don't have to be rudely pointed out to Wikipedia as if I've never heard of Wikipedia. – Ardeshir P. Dec 13 '12 at 23:48
  • @ArdeshirP. Our experience is that questions asked in such a rapid-fire style about basic concepts inevitably lead to more questions, which in turn lead to still more questions. It would have been better if you'd pointed to something specific, and said: "I read this article, but I really don't understand what so and so means." And then not be disappointed if the answer is: "You know, you really ought to stand up a Hadoop instance, and try a few things yourself." – user102937 Dec 14 '12 at 0:08
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    @ArdeshirP. - Responding to sarcasm with an insult isn't a great way to win people over here. I understand that you're frustrated, but you can't take it out on others, because that will only make things worse. If you feel that someone is being rude to you, flag their comments and we'll take a look at them. A better response would have been to politely point out the specific places you researched this, and the areas you felt they did not explain well. – Brad Larson Dec 14 '12 at 0:10
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    Thanks Brad. That is a great advice specially flagging a sarcastic comment; to be honest I didn't think of it at the time, and I hadn't even noticed the flag icon at the time given that I'm new here; but I'll keep that in mind for my future posts. – Ardeshir P. Dec 14 '12 at 0:29
  • @Pekka, my comment about dictatorship was not a response to that first comment. I added that comment after both my questions were closed down. – Ardeshir P. Dec 14 '12 at 0:51

Your questions are actually not that good or to be fair: they don't fit the scope of this Question&Answer site. And a democratic community downvoted and closed them.

You got several downvotes from different people and it takes close-votes from 5 different people to close a question.

That process actually couldn't be more democratic than it currently is.

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    "...couldn't be more democratic..."; Indeed! If anything, the OP here seems to really be wanting to ask how to avoid the effects of the 'democratic' process. – Andrew Barber Dec 13 '12 at 22:38
  • So, you are saying a question such as "Is Map/Reduce specific to Hadoop or competitors to Hadoop such as Amazon dynamo also use Map/Reduce?" is too open ended? If I'm an experienced user, I will answer that question in less than 10 words. – Ardeshir P. Dec 13 '12 at 22:47
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    @ArdeshirP. No; that question shows absolutely no research. As you said - it's painfully easy to answer. – Andrew Barber Dec 13 '12 at 23:15
  • Actually, the questions show a lot of research. Documentation on Hadoop and NoSQL in general are far worse than any other technologies. Point out one resource on the web that specifically answers the questions that I had, and I will delete my account right now. – Ardeshir P. Dec 14 '12 at 0:33
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    @ArdeshirP. You may have done a lot of research before asking those questions, but the questions do not show that. You need to put some of what you got from your research into the question, and tell the potential answerers what specifically you didn't get from the research. – Daniel Fischer Dec 14 '12 at 0:36

Ok so the other answers here try to explain why your specific posts were deemed "not fit" for Stack Overflow. I'll try to address your underlying question or rather the title of your post.

There are many layers of logic in place on the Stack Exchange network that ensure a democratic approach to decisions with regard to content moderation on the site. In no official order here are some that come to mind.

  1. Post voting. Once a user has passed an initial threshold of 125 reputation points they can vote up or vote down a post. The total score of a post (upvotes-downvotes) is an indication of the effort/research put in to a question, or validity/correctness of an answer. Voting is anonymous.

  2. Closing/deleting a question or answer is done by more than one user. These close/delete votes are also anonymous until the last "binding" vote is cast, after which the users involved are listed for transparency. These more impacting decisions require a much higher threshold of reputation 3K/10K. Users get to this level of reputation as a result of their contributions and actions on the site such as from votes.

  3. If all else fails in the community moderation process (or if something seriously horrible is going on), every site has their set of human exception handlers AKA The Diamond Moderators. These users are elected in a very defined and controlled process too long to go into detail in this answer. There is much material here on meta dealing with the election process. These diamond mods have the most power of the "regular users" on the site. They can close/delete posts with one crack of their unicorn tail.

Finally there is the company behind the magic - Stack Exchange inc. They are the people behind it all and at the end of the day, they really do have the final say on things. So I guess all these points I mentioned really depend on them letting us take care of ourselves because as soon as they are forced to step in, it's no longer democratic.

Long live the Kings and Queens of the Stack Exchange Kingdom!

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    I just discovered the Diamond Moderators thing. – user200500 Dec 13 '12 at 23:25
  • @asa - And I just realized it was slightly wrong! The list is now correct :P – Lix Dec 13 '12 at 23:36
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    We need to get two more diamond mods. – user200500 Dec 13 '12 at 23:38
  • You won't be able to access it right now (private beta), but over on Politics.SE we've already decided Stack Exchange is not a democracy. For the most part its a meritocracy, but ultimately its a benevolent dictatorship. – yannis Dec 13 '12 at 23:48
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    @yan - was it a democratic decision? – Lix Dec 13 '12 at 23:50
  • @yan - any chance to get a cheeky pdf screen dump of that post? – Lix Dec 13 '12 at 23:52
  • @yan - awesome man... thanks! – Lix Dec 14 '12 at 0:01
  • Thanks Lix. The process and the layers that has been implemented is of course thoughtful, but you know that in practice somethings do go wrong. – Ardeshir P. Dec 14 '12 at 0:11
  • @ard - Indeed they do. That's why we have this meta site to openly discuss operations on the network. If you disagree on some action that was taken you can come here and open a post about it - as you have done, and get some answers - as you have done :P – Lix Dec 14 '12 at 0:22
  • @Lix Cleaned up my earlier comment, Politics is now public, you can find the question here (the screenshot revealed my votes, no big deal, but pointless now that the site's public). – yannis Dec 18 '12 at 21:43

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