I have been a forum poster for awhile. This is confusing because I have answered a lot of forum posts before on forum websites with code and cohesive statements. I even repeated a post here on a forum and got an answer immediately that was short and to the point. So whats the differences between the two models?

I think the confusion between the different linked sites confuses me too. For instance, I posted in computer science theory by mistake and got a bunch of markdowns on the question instead of being moved like a forum

Going more specific or adding to the bolded question whats the difference between question and answer and asking on msdn forums (they lock the topic or move to off-topic if it does not apply) for an answer? I rarely see specific code samples that are useful to my environment here and more useful posts with full source on msdn forums. For instance, A topic which is a general question and answer such as what is a variable? This should have the answer link to a general programming Q&A site instead of upvoting it because it was rephased a little different (puts too much dummy content nullifying the usefulness of the website).

P.S. it would be useful to have some people have suggestions on improvement to the question ans/or content or "wrong Q+A site" instead of immediately marking down in-case the asker posted to the wrong site.

  • +1 for asking the question and seeking to improve your interaction on the SE sites! – Andrew Barber Jan 25 '13 at 3:53

Q&A, Stack Exchange Style, can be summarized in this way:

Attract subject matter experts that can provide quality answers to questions, by focusing the site's topic and reducing noise as much as possible.

Noise is reduced in several ways:

  1. By requiring answers to be answers,
  2. By encouraging quality questions, and
  3. By limiting conversation.

Forums do none of these things.

Recently, I googled "Ford Taurus 2005 won't start when hot." Do you know how many matches there are? About four hundred thousand. Do you know how many of those matches actually impart useful information? Exactly zero. Well, zero in the first two dozen matches anyway.

Why is this? Because those matches go to forums, where dozens of people have posted the same question over and over again, and hundreds of people have posted countless useless answers to that question, including

  • "I have the same problem, any idea?"
  • "Mine starts but I have this other problem."
  • "Mine always starts, I don't know what your problem is."
  • "Mine only starts at Disneyland."
  • "I like turtles."

And so on.

Stack Exchange is a known solution to a known problem. The question and answer format is carefully crafted to encourage the posting of high-quality material.

The forum environment is exactly the opposite. It is a vast wasteland of suck, promising everything, delivering nothing. It is the Sahara desert, where you walk towards an oasis because you are dying of thirst, but it is just a mirage, and there's no water there.

  • I wish though that I could be given constructive criticism first rather then be downvoted or if it applys to a different forum it tell the person politely it might apply to a different Q&A or forum and direct them their. Thanks that explains it in a nice simple manner. – jeffery Jan 24 '13 at 23:18
  • I do agree there's a bit of a learning curve, and we don't do a lot of hand-holding. – user102937 Jan 24 '13 at 23:19
  • 2
    This answer seems awfully familiar :) – ChrisF Jan 24 '13 at 23:20
  • @ChrisF: I tried to figure out a way to link to it, but the preamble is always different. I suppose I should write a blog entry. – user102937 Jan 24 '13 at 23:21
  • I still do not agree. Only somewhat do I agree with the content after the numbered list. I asked the MSHTML question on msdn and got an answer quicker then asking on here. Its still no different asking on msdn because the posts that do not match the forum are moved to off-topic or locked (usually off-topic). – jeffery Jan 24 '13 at 23:24
  • 1
    @jeffery We're glad that you got a quick answer elsewhere but, in my experience, that rarely happens. It is common for a carefully crafted, well-written question to get a high-quality answer in 30 minutes or less on Stack Overflow. I doubt that you see that kind of speed with any regularity on any other forum. – user102937 Jan 24 '13 at 23:27
  • 2
    @jeffery you should know that several forums - including the MSDN ones - have adapted themselves to become more like Stack Exchange with accepted answers, voting and more moderation. All the things that help keep SE sites on topic. – ChrisF Jan 24 '13 at 23:31
  • just for reference I like the way this answerer handled the situation. He answered with the reason why the topic was closed in a clear effective manner without being rude: scicomp.stackexchange.com/questions/5131/… – jeffery Jan 29 '13 at 13:42
  • Keep it for future usage in the answers FAQ section about Etiquette or if an answerer is being really rude or offensive. Maybe I should copy this link to meta on stackexchange if it has a meta site. – jeffery Jan 29 '13 at 13:46

I think the confusion between the different linked sites confuses me too. For instance, I posted in computer science theory by mistake and got a bunch of markdowns on the question.

This has nothing to do with the difference between a forum and a Q&A site. If you posted something about cats on a forum about dogs you'd get similarly "marked down". You need to pay more attention to where you are posting to.

As to the difference between the two, to the poster there's not. The initial post is a question and the subsequent posts should be answers to that question. However, forums threads tend to devolve into discussions quite quickly, whereas here on Stack Exchange we are very strict about ensuring that answers actually are answers and more importantly answers to the question being asked.

The main thing that Stack Exchange did to improve the experience of asking for help and getting the help was to strictly enforce the rules about staying on topic. This ensures that you know that when you go to a site about a subject you are going to find questions and answers on that subject and not about anything else.

  • I changed it to apply to the question more. – jeffery Jan 24 '13 at 23:15

Q&A is just a little bit more specific than forums.

Yes, you can ask and answer questions in a normal forum, but you can also have discussions and other stuff

On SE sites, you have considerably less discussion, and it's more limited to questions and answers.

The benefit to this is, the added simplicity. When you find a link to help help it's error # 1304E, if that's a link to StackOverflow, you know that the posts will be limited to answering the problem rather than discussing the problem without answering it.

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