I use to be able to start discussions which would allow for many people to answer share their experience. One of my top questions asked for the best ways to learn iPhone development a while back and I got many great responses. Now any question which asks about experience is shut down. This seriously diminishes the value of SO to me.

I posted the following question after carefully writing it up with 2 links showing examples of the kinds of information I was looking for people to share. Given the rise of cloud hosting solutions and new languages emerging I think it would be very helpful to read through the answers on what people have done themselves with various technology. It is what I thought SO was supposed to be about when it got passed basic questions about runtime and compilation errors.


Is this what I should be expecting from SO? Should a handful of users be able to shut down discussions like this one?

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    We learned, over time, what works and what doesn't work. Polling questions don't work with the Stack Overflow format, that's all. This is not something decided by just a handful of users, but by community consensus. – Martijn Pieters Dec 14 '13 at 23:02
  • Wow, I can think of multiple reasons that's off topic - too broad, primarily opinion based, poll question, etc – Doorknob Dec 14 '13 at 23:03
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    Oh, by the way, your question is not "blocked" or "shut down". It can be reopened if you improve it. (Although I doubt that's possible in this specific case) – Doorknob Dec 14 '13 at 23:05
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    Really good discussions are not possible on SO because they are blocked if they solicit discussion based on experience. It is very disappointing. There is no other forum where developers can share experience like this. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:07
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    @Doorknob Objective developers can share real-world stories about how they have optimized performance and it would be extremely helpful. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:08
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    Stuff like that would perhaps be cool and useful - but it's a format that the SO community has decided against because of its many downsides, and its tendency to devolve into non-constructive discussion. A place that allows for that kind of discussion is quora.com although I don't think it's strong in the programming department – Pekka Dec 14 '13 at 23:09
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    slant.co is excellent for these types of questions. – Doorknob Dec 14 '13 at 23:11
  • @Pëkka In the cases where it becomes unproductive the people who post poor responses should be penalized not the person who is trying to solution answers to gather a lot of experience in one place. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:11
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    Experience has shown that quality control is not as easy as you make it out to be. (Oh yeah forgot about Slant, that is nice) – Pekka Dec 14 '13 at 23:12
  • Should Stackexchange create a new site which allows for these kinds of discussions so it does not have to conform to the Q&A structure with one best answer? I do not even think we need a new website but a different type of question which allows for many valued responses. Unconstructive response can be down voted. Where else can I go to ask this kind of question so I can plan what I learn next? Before I jump in with one cloud hosting solution or new language I would really like to read about people's experiences and SO is the best place for people with that experience. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:15
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    @Brennan you can of course propose that to Stack Exchange, but historically, such suggestions haven't seen much support neither from the community nor from the company. That doesn't mean it isn't a good idea or has to always be that way but SE seems currently to be geared more towards expanding its Q&A model to other fields of expertise. SO co-founder Jeff Atwood went on and created discourse.org, a forum system - it might be possible to build a programmers' forum based on that, but I haven't seen any such plans so far anywhere – Pekka Dec 14 '13 at 23:18
  • I think what I'd like to see at this point is a forum which is linked to site like GitHub so that I can see their code and activity as a developer instead of just comments and discussions. If the overwhelming opinion on SO is that objective discussions are not welcome then it is time to go elsewhere. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:22
  • I see this question is being voted down. I do not spend a ton of time on SO every day. I am not familiar with all of the questions which have been asked on this topic and when I do come here it has become a very hostile experience. I doubt this is what Jeff Atwood intended. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:29
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    "See how this is a problem?" No... there's a reason you can't find any good site or forum for discussions - because if you make one, it quickly breaks down into terrible quality mindless keyboard bashing. – Doorknob Dec 14 '13 at 23:44
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    At a quick estimate, one in five of the links in the answers to your iOS dev question are now dead. Most of the answers duplicate information in other answers. There may be some gems there, but they're buried. SO was intended to unearth the gems and keep them visible, not require you to dig through two pages of repetitive posts to find what you need (like forum threads require). That's why questions that generate tons of answers, all of which are equally "correct" have been sidelined on SO. – jscs Dec 14 '13 at 23:48

There are plenty of "forums" where you can engage in those types of chatty discussions. Stack Exchange provides an alternative to those forums, because we have found that forum environments, over the long run, are less than useless.

You ask your questions here because this is where the experts are. But the experts are here because we've made an effort to keep our questions interesting to them. If we allowed Stack Exchange to become yet another forum, the experts would leave.

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    If sharing work experience is not interesting to experts and these questions are not welcome here then SO has become something very different than when I started using it more than 5 years ago. I use to able to spark productive discussions. Now it has become like a mob discussion on Slashdot and no good discussions are allowed. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:27
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    And yet, somehow, Stack Overflow thrives and grows on a scale that no discussion forum on programming does. You keep these discussions are good, but they don't support communities like Stack Exchange. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 14 '13 at 23:35
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    @Brennan: Not to sound too elitist here, but in the early days Stack Overflow was frequented mostly by professionals, and they could be counted on (for the most part) to engage in discussions productively. Then the great unwashed masses came. – user102937 Dec 15 '13 at 0:22

This seriously diminishes the value of SO to me.

I think we have the problem right here: You are concerned about the benefit to yourself, while Stack Overflow is concerned with the benefit for the entire community. Those two interests will necessarily be at variance every so often. Ultimately, being useful to the community works and attracts contributors, while a website that tried to cater to your expectations would very likely struggle to attract the very kind of contributors that would provide the services you seek.

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  • . . Spot on . . – brasofilo Dec 15 '13 at 3:53

Times have changed. Admittedly, most of the questions that I see that are along those lines from five years ago have been useful, but that's not the direction that SO is going now.

Stack Overflow isn't a forum. Having open-ended discussions and discussion topics isn't within the scope of the site. It's also not a good way to get experts involved in the matter, if they're busy debating hypotheticals and unlikely scenarios.

It's likely that those sorts of open-ended discussions would be permissible in chat instead.

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    That is unfortunately. We have a community with lots of developers with a ton of experience and the only questions which seem to get through are about fixing compilation and runtime errors. If this is how it is going to be on SO it is time for another system to share our experience and help each other with our work. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:10
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    @Brennan If you see such a place, let us know about it so we can check it out (seriously - not being snarky) – Pekka Dec 14 '13 at 23:12
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    I am at the point where I have worked with Perl/Apache, Java, .NET and now iOS/Parse. I want to know what experiences people have with what is available so that I can 1) get to know people with all that experience 2) decide for myself what will work best for me. Perhaps a website which links to GitHub would be best. That way I can also look at code by the developers commenting on posts and decide for myself how I rate them so I can weigh their responses accordingly. – Brennan Dec 14 '13 at 23:19
  • @Brennan - That sounds like the perfect question for the folks in the iOS chat rooms. I'd suggest posting that question there and seeing what responses you get. Chat is the perfect place for discussion. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Dec 15 '13 at 2:15

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