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I saw this question, and while I'm sure it was a real question (I don't know ), had some dramatic emphasis every line. For example:

This appears to be impossible. And if I can't get around the catch, my Christmas will be ruined and I'll drink myself to death in a gutter while merry shoppers step over my slowly cooling body. Totes serious, you guys.

Instead of down voting, I elected to help by removing some of this unneeded drama. Within half an hour, my edits were rolled back for "vandalism." I soon realized that the 100+ upvotes were partially from the dramatism (when I read the comments). I don't have a problem with humor, or a personal touch, but I felt that this had gone too far (apparently I was wrong)- every other line had some weird joke.

To people from here who read the post, it could be entertaining, but people from search engines would probably leave in two minutes from all of the random, off-topic chaff, IMO.

My question: Is drama like this acceptable in Stack Overflow, and if so, why? Or was my edit just too much?

  • That question was asked by Will near Christmas. We may be part of the hive, but we still have a heart. – Frédéric Hamidi Jan 4 '14 at 21:58
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    @FrédéricHamidi You don't think he went too far at all? I'm not saying that we should all be mindless programmer robots, but really, are you saying that having half a post as jokes is "having a heart"? – hkk Jan 4 '14 at 22:00
  • What do you make of Flash CS4 refuses to let go then? – Martin Smith Jan 4 '14 at 22:00
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    @MartinSmith If I saw that two hours ago, I would have deleted half the question, downvoted, and flagged, but now I've learnt my lesson. – hkk Jan 4 '14 at 22:02
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    Fun is important. As long as it's on-topic as well, I don't see a need to remove it. Plus, this is Will we're talking about. He's a... special case. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 4 '14 at 22:03
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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/199302/… – Jim G. Jan 4 '14 at 22:18
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    Stack Overflow: Where We Hate Fun "there are three broad guidelines that determine whether a question is appropriate for Stack Overflow..." – gnat Jan 4 '14 at 23:49
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I mostly agree with you. Will's laying it on a bit thick here; that's his style. However, I only see two humorous pieces that are truly distracting:

And if I can't get around the catch, my Christmas will be ruined and I'll drink myself to death in a gutter while merry shoppers step over my slowly cooling body. Totes serious, you guys.

This is really unnecessary, and at best should be moved to the end of the question. This is just like putting "URGENT!" in your post, except it's kind of amusing and Will (presumably) knows that it doesn't have any effect.

(protip: make your worst enemies do this after crushing them and driving them before you but right before enjoying the lamentations of their women and children)

Okay, reading the logs is unpleasant. So what? This too could be removed without affecting the question at all.

The other little bits don't really add up to enough, to my mind, to dent the question's quality. It's a solid post, made by a competent individual.

I think your heart was in the right place here, but once in a while, a question or answer's popularity with the community outweighs our hatred of fun.

In this case, let it be, but don't be afraid to keep trying to edit out fluff.

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6

Humor is okay. Distraction is not. The humor in this post is distracting.

As for using humor to game getting upvotes? I think that's a little problematic, but really only because the humor was distracting. The most upvoted question on serverfault has a clearly humorous and provocative title ("Something is burning in the server room, how can I quickly identify what it is?") but it's also... a really good question. I would argue that the popularity and irony derives from the fact that it's a really funny question despite perfectly fitting into SO guidelines and being a thoroughly good question.

This question from SO gave me my most upvoted answer. The question was contentious at the time but it stayed open and I feel for the same reasons: it's a completely funny question but a completely good one as well. Those get popular.

More generally this is just part of office humor in bureaucracies where people make jokes within the system. Like one time when my entire 200+ person floor ran over to look at a double rainbow, so the department manager created a project ticket for "looking at double rainbow" everyone could bill to. Yep, CTO saw that one at end of year when doing budgeting.

So my point is, yes, in some situations humor can be used to garner upvotes, and in those situations this is perfectly okay. And that has created some of SE's best, most famous and most popular questions. Which gets people on SE and teaches an ironic lesson in how to write a good question. This is perfectly okay, and if you figure out how to write one of those winners while creating a great SE question, by all means, post it. Just please don't ask a lot of bad questions with distracting content in the process, which I think is what this user did. And if you see distracting content in a post trying to be funny, edit it out.

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5

I believe that the humour helped attract (market/advertise) the community to the post, which is part of the authors aim to increase the exposure of the issue to an many people as possible. If Will had not used humour I doubt as many people would have eyes on his problem because it's an extremely specific and technical issue.

A well written and timed question, shouldn't be edited if they have used humour, examples, screenshots, code example or any other method needed to explain a complex problem. Sure it's a moot point about some of the paragraphs, I agree, but overall the question include lots of good information required to help someone to provide an answer. I would be happy if more people took the time to write comprehensive questions with lots of details and use some personality.

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    I think he got most of his views from the bounty, not the humor (though there's no doubt that a personal touch helps with views on questions like it). I agree that if you look at the question as a whole, it was good, and I think that it shouldn't be closed. However, what I was saying was that he went over the top with the "personal touch." – hkk Jan 5 '14 at 0:38
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    @cloudcoder2000: I think he got most of his views from the bounty, not the humor I got 40+ before the bounty. But bountied questions don't normally attract upvotes, just eyes. The humorous way I wrote it is what attracted more upvotes from the eyes drawn by the bounty. – user1228 Jan 6 '14 at 19:26
  • @Won't You're right that the humor probably did lead to upvotes, but I still think that it went way overboard. – hkk Jan 6 '14 at 19:38
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We generally should not change the tone and style of a post. Of course everyone can edit any post, but we should respect the whishes of the original author unless there is a significant problem.

The post certainly has a certain amount of exaggeration, I would expect nothing less from Will. But I don't think the way it is written is severely harmful, so I think we should let it stay this way.

The authors of such posts have to live with the consequences of their style, though. Sometimes they are positive like in this case, but often they are negative. I would not change a post significantly in style if the author objects, but I would feel free to close if I think it is not viable in the original form.

The votes are almost certainly from some external source, any post with that amount of votes is either at the top of the hot questions list or linked on Hacker News, Reddit or a similar site. The votes are not important in this case.

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  • The votes mean this could become a Bad Audit^(tm), however. – John Dvorak Jan 4 '14 at 22:04
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    Why is this a bad audit @Jan? It's a good question in a slightly idiosyncratic style. Just because you personally don't like someone's writing style is no reason to close a post. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 4 '14 at 22:06
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    @benisuǝqbackwards It's not just writing style. It's doubling the length for unhelpful humor. – hkk Jan 4 '14 at 22:07
  • @cloudcoder2000 Will was an SO moderator until a while ago – Mad Scientist Jan 4 '14 at 22:07
  • See What happened to Will? @cloudcoder2000/ – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 4 '14 at 22:08
  • @benisuǝqbackwards I didn't vote to close, but, is it worth my downvote? – John Dvorak Jan 4 '14 at 22:09
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    @cloudcoder2000 - doubling the length? Your proposed edit removed a fairly short paragraph. – Martin Smith Jan 4 '14 at 22:10
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    You can downvote for whatever reason you wish @Jan. I personally wouldn't downvote a question that someone spent the time to make interesting but it's your perogative. I mentioned closing specifically because you said it could become a bad audit. – ben is uǝq backwards Jan 4 '14 at 22:11
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    @MartinSmith I didn't remove everything, only the joke paragraph and the end part of the title. Okay, maybe it was about a fourth, to be honest. But still, the joke parts didn't add anything productive. – hkk Jan 4 '14 at 22:13
  • Actually, no, @Jan: there's a maximum cap on post score for audits (also, there's a down-vote on that post too). – Shog9 Jan 4 '14 at 22:13
0

Look, I know we hate fun. See, here's a funny picture that will be eventually edited out by some scofflaugh (yes, I just invented that word)

                                                        enter image description here

                                                                  (Darth Vader Pooping, 2013)

I try to make my questions interesting as interesting questions tend to get more eyes, and more eyes get more answers.

The subject of the question is obscure and boring as hell, and thus I knew it would, if written straight, get 2 upvotes and no traction at all. So I threw some spice in there. It also helped me convert the rage of half an iteration wasted on this obscure crap into a non-ranty question, which is also a Good Thing.

The question is entirely clear on what I am attempting to do and what I have tried. The humorous parts are in the presentation and two or three throwaway sentences.

Since I have posted this question, it has been edited a number of times to take out some, but not all humor. So I can't see the point of this at all.

Why edit out some of the humor but not all? Do you have a distraction gauge that is so finely tuned that you can remove humor, one word at a time, until it reaches the "Acceptable" level of humor? And who issued you this gague? Is that official StackOverflow gear? And, most annoyingly to me,

why are you wasting time editing well written, clear questions when there are tens of thousands of questions that could USE your help clarifying them???

The question is nowhere near the top on the list of questions needing editing. Seriously, your help is needed elsewhere.

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    Why edit out some of the humor but not all? Because I don't hate fun, I hate distraction. Do you have a distraction gauge? No, I just try to edit out the purely humorous parts while leaving the other stuff alone. In general, I just doing my best, and since it's a community, others can edit if they think I've done to much or too little. The question is nowhere near the top on the list of questions needing editing. I agree that it's by no means the worst question out there, but questions with 150+ upvotes serve as examples of what is acceptable and what isn't. – hkk Jan 6 '14 at 19:48
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    @cloudcoder2000: So, you think you should edit out 42% of the humor. Okay. That isn't arbitrary at all. And, notice, when you are facing a situation where your choices are all equally arbitrary (e.g., 0% through 100%), the result is also arbitrary. We shouldn't be making arbitrary edits to other people's posts. You think there is too much humor. Okay, downvote and move on. – user1228 Jan 6 '14 at 19:56
  • @cloudcoder2000: Another option in cases like this (too humorous, much distraction) is to VTC as unclear. At least in that case I'll be the one responsible for gutting... – user1228 Jan 6 '14 at 19:58
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    The FAQ says, "Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to suggest an edit, you are welcome to do so." I thought that the question fell in the "needs improvement" category, so I did my best to improve it. You can call the amount I removed whatever you want, but it's really just called using my discretion. The FAQ also says that edits should "leave the post better than you found it," which in this case it did, imho. So I'm not sure why there's anything wrong with leaving it 42% better, versus 100% better. At least it's in the right direction. – hkk Jan 6 '14 at 20:40
  • As for close voting, I only have 700 rep... but if I ever do get to 3k, then I'll be sure to keep that in mind. – hkk Jan 6 '14 at 20:41
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    Extending your logic I should probably be busy raising money for malaria nets instead of editing questions on SO at all. – djechlin Jan 6 '14 at 21:45
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    Do you have a distraction gauge that is so finely tuned that you can remove humor, one word at a time, until it reaches the "Acceptable" level of humor? And who issued you this gauge? Actually, basically yes. I'm more or less the arbiter of distraction. I was elected, not appointed. – djechlin Jan 6 '14 at 21:49
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    «why are you wasting time editing well written, clear questions when there are tens of thousands of questions that could USE your help clarifying them???» Because this question, by dint of the fact that it's very popular both upvote- and view-wise, and is posted by a high-rep user who's a former moderator, stands a much larger chance than those other questions of being used as a "what I should be able to get away with" example for future askers with a less-finely-tuned distraction sensor than you have. – jscs Feb 2 '14 at 21:21
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    That's just the flip side to reputation, on- or off-line. Fair or not, being a respected individual, you're also an exemplar. – jscs Feb 2 '14 at 22:25

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