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Right now, there is a flood of new R questions being posted on Stack Overflow. These are good, potentially valuable questions. However, this use of SO is preventing people with real questions from getting visibility. I posted a question less than 10 minutes ago and it's almost off the front page already! That's insane.

I'm fully supportive of the R community that wants to leverage Stack Overflow, but they shouldn't flood it all at once during times when a lot of people have questions about things they are working on. For example, my question is about getting a UML diagram laid out so I can export it and put it in a report. I'm sure these R questions aren't current, pressing issues, but they are having a negative impact on anyone who needs an answer now or quickly (although my question isn't pressing...it's sad to see so many good questions pushed down).

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  • Where did they come from? What do they want? Sep 8, 2009 at 18:06
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    They want your bell curves, Adam.
    – Welbog
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:07
  • If we increase the number of allowed tags to at least 7, will they go away? Sep 8, 2009 at 18:12
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    How do you propose to prevent it? I'm unable to think of any solutions offhand that would work and wouldn't be so heavy handed that they block some of what you call "people with real questions" from getting through. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:29
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    @dmckee: I think this is more of a "let's not give them a nod and a shout-out on the blog next time they want to bomb the site with R questions." Not necessarily looking for a mechanism to prevent mobs from happening.
    – TheTXI
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:41
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    @TheTXI: So then, it'd be bad to suggest "What is a pirate's favorite programming language?" as a topic for the next podcast? Sep 8, 2009 at 18:46
  • @TheTXI: Ah. Well, that is entirely reasonable. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:50
  • In fact, I'm for flash mobs like this - this one appeared to infuse good questions (and hopefully answers) into Stack Overflow. However, they need to be timed better to not interfere with peak usage (although this might not be peak usage, I think it's up there). Sep 8, 2009 at 18:52
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    "this use of SO is preventing people with real questions from getting visibility" - Really? Real questions? Stuck up much?
    – EBGreen
    Sep 8, 2009 at 19:32
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    EBGreen: The questions on SO weren't actual questions that the posters had. If you read the blog post on the R flash mob, the questions were picked from the most asked or best questions from the R mailing list. The original posters didn't have them, while most (if not all) of the other questions were by and for the original poster. Sep 8, 2009 at 22:37
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    I understand the nature of the questions. I just think that the presumption that immediate need makes the question more valuable to the community is faulty.
    – EBGreen
    Sep 9, 2009 at 13:22

7 Answers 7

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By "Front Page" do you mean the default view on stackoverflow.com or /questions/newest? Questions don't last on https://stackoverflow.com/?tab=active for longer than 10 minutes during peak hours anyway.

It seems like the benefit of new helpful content on StackOverflow outweighs the cost of lack of attention on some questions, especially with all the features (unanswered tab, bounties, tags) that are already in place to help those questions gain visibility.

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What about encouraging flash mobs during off hours like weekends?

There's a lot less activity on weekends so it's less likely to interfere with all of the please-send-me-the-codes questions that normally appear during the week.

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  • Low use times is fine with me. Just not during heavy usage times, when lots of people are asking/answering other questions. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:03
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    I think this is a good idea. Maybe even give a special "heads-up" banner to the flash mobbers who kindly schedule their flash mobbing during off-peak times. Or stickers.
    – Shog9
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:20
  • We want to go the route of "I'm sorry, while your content is valuable to us, it is not really valuable enough for the times when the most people will see it."
    – EBGreen
    Sep 8, 2009 at 19:38
  • @EBGreen: uh... AFAIK, the problem isn't R. It's the "flashmob" style: converge on a place (SO) at a time and do something (post questions / answer questions). It's somewhat unusual - normally, questions get asked and answered all day, with the usual peaks and valleys determined by timezone. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but getting those involved to help smooth out (vs. intensify) existing trends would only be good for both the mobbers and the site.
    – Shog9
    Sep 8, 2009 at 20:42
4

You are assuming that everyone uses the front page to look for questions to answer: I find that I will usually just look at tags (Java and Scala) because that is what I am interested in. If others do the same, the R questions will not prevent others from being noticed. I hadn't even noticed that SO was being swamped.

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    This is the usage equivalent to "works on my machine". You have to accommodate the way everyone uses the web application, not just you.
    – Welbog
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:09
  • I use either the homepage or the questions page, depending on what I'm doing, since I sometimes browse questions in tags that I don't pay a lot of attention to just to get exposed to some things. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:44
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I just added the R tag to my ignored list for the time being. It will at least help filter for now. I personally don't have an issue with the mobs. I believe this one was already discussed so we had ample time to prepare.

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I wasn't very fond of this idea of having people bog down the site posting dozens upon dozens of questions all at one time. If anything they should be doing this stuff late at night or during the weekends when activity is very low. Doing it in the middle of the day is R-tarded.

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  • Your R-tarded pun has earned you an offensive flag, because it offended my sense of humour.
    – Welbog
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:03
  • @Welbog: Is that even possible? Sep 8, 2009 at 18:04
  • @gnovice: I have a very well-refined sense of humour.
    – Welbog
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:06
  • @Welbog: Refined like oil or refined like sugars? Sep 8, 2009 at 18:38
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    Welbog has a refined sense of humour, unfortunately it is generally offensive. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:38
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    @gnovice: Refined like weapons-grade botulinum toxin. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:40
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    +1 for the R-tarded pun
    – juan
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:43
  • @Adam Bellaire: I was going to say something more like "refined like experimental smallpox strains," but yours works too.
    – Welbog
    Sep 8, 2009 at 18:45
  • @Welbog: I was expecting "refined like weapons-grade uranium." Sep 8, 2009 at 18:48
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    It's always daytime at some part of the world
    – perbert
    Nov 5, 2009 at 2:58
2

During peak hours, ~10 minutes on the front page is pretty good. I've seen consecutive C# questions come through that could fit the same, "flash mob" pattern that are definitely not a "flash mob."

However, in the long run, you'll probably get a better response (just delayed) because the "good" users are going back several pages to see what they've missed.

Other things to consider...
This could be their slow time (i.e., across the globe).
Their questioning is going to taper off pretty quick now.

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  • You have to accomodate the majority of SO users by going off of site peak times, not a given user's peak times. Sep 8, 2009 at 18:46
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I say we take this one step further and have banded asking times. So for instance during the four most popular hours of a week day you can only ask questions from the most populace 10 tags. Then as the time moves away from peak more tags could open up as valid questions. You could even have it be dynamic and if there was a certain new question volume, you could have it only allow C# or .Net questions.

Alternatively, we could just change the system so that "real" questions about "real" topics would be guaranteed x amount of dwell time in the recent questions list. So if you asked a C# question you would be assured a minimum of 30 minutes on the front page for instance.

/sarcasm off

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    Bah. This suggestion sucks. Reminds me of those elitist swim-team people getting their own reserved slot instead of having to practice during open-swim while the rest of us were beating each other senseless with foam noodles. DOWN WITH SCHEDULES AND TIMESLOTS!
    – Shog9
    Sep 8, 2009 at 20:48
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    So apparently the sarcasm off tag was not sufficient.
    – EBGreen
    Sep 9, 2009 at 13:21
  • If you need a tag to detect sarcasm, you've failed (regardless of whether you're the reader or the writer)... ;-)
    – Shog9
    Sep 9, 2009 at 17:44

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