Just voted to close a question on Stack Overflow in Portuguese, and saw this on the edit history:


Which asks this (in portuguese):

Are there good sites or books of introduction to programming in Portuguese? What do you recommend as a first reading to an absolute layman in programming?

It was closed and reopened twice. Didn't find any specifics on the reopening on the local meta, only some side discussion linked by @bigown (by the way, the original proponent of SO PT at Area 51, that seems to me is favorable to close the question too) at the end of the comments list.

What seems strange to me is, no one of the two mods involved give any feedback about the reopening on Meta. Probably it should happened, since it is against the community will (twice).

So, I asked this on our local meta, and posted this here just in case. Here is my local post (same question):

Sorry if I'm too "alarmed", but as our local SO is new, I really want the "upper staff" involved with our "fate".

Just FYI, I asked on our meta for an explanation.

Our meta question: Alguém pode me explicar o comportamento misterioso "comunidade" x "gerência"?

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    That question is pretty famous on Stack Overflow. In my personal opinion, every exchange should have one similar question to it as a book reference. – Travis J Feb 12 '14 at 17:25
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    It seems we have just one mod that speaks portuguese, and he was against community opinion in other aspects too. Don't want to sound harsh, neither ungrateful. I'm just beginning to be worried. – Bacco Feb 12 '14 at 17:26
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    @Travis: What question on Stack Overflow? Are you talking about the C++ book list question? Because that question is one diamond in a sea of turds, and we specifically disallow book recommendation questions otherwise. – user102937 Feb 12 '14 at 17:26
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    The revision history items aren't properly translated, someone get the torches and pitchforks! – Tim Stone Feb 12 '14 at 17:30
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    @Servy - Contextually, I disagree. Why is it that no one considers new exchanges should follow a similar path of growth as the main exchanges that started all of this? – Travis J Feb 12 '14 at 17:32
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    @TravisJ: Why would you want to learn the same painful lessons over and over? – user102937 Feb 12 '14 at 17:33
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    @TravisJ "Why should we learn from our past mistakes and avoid the problems caused by them by preventing them from happening again?" You really need that answered? – Servy Feb 12 '14 at 17:33
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    @Servy and Robert, sounds like you're deliberately straw-manning Travis' position. Can you not see the value in those questions existing on a StackExchange site and the traffic they bring, or are you being deliberately dogmatic? – jball Feb 12 '14 at 17:35
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    @Servy - You are overgeneralizing. – Travis J Feb 12 '14 at 17:37
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    @jball: What straw man? You've been around long enough to know how much strife was caused by book recommendation questions on Stack Overflow. That's not a straw man, it's a real man. – user102937 Feb 12 '14 at 17:38
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    @RobertHarvey Both current mods at that site are SE employees. And they're trying to push a looser approach on moderation (community moderation or not). However, we're really puzzled that they only say we need to be more open, and do not participate in most discussions about what the site rules should be. Personally, I was avoiding bringing this to MSO until I really understand WTF is going on there, but since it's been posted, I'm glad to hear more opinions. – bfavaretto Feb 12 '14 at 17:38
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    @RobertHarvey Actually, the very first post on our meta is titled This is NOT stackoverflow.com. They really want something different out of that site, but are failing miserably in letting us know what. – bfavaretto Feb 12 '14 at 17:47
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    It seems Jaydles and Gabe decided run an experiment on SOpt. Community disagree. Aside note: Every programming book in portuguese is bad. Every site about programming in portuguesse is bad. SOpt should be the oasis for us. – Maniero Feb 12 '14 at 17:55
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    @TravisJ And past experience has demonstrated, over and over again, that such voting is not an effective tool for measuring the quality of book recommendations, for any number of reasons, ranging from the fact that 1) popularity != quality 2) as books age, their value can decrease, but the votes remain 3) readers often don't look past the first few answers when voting 4) such lists usually have many books per answer, especially in the top answer 5) You don't have experts voting, you have anyone in the world with 15 rep voting – Servy Feb 12 '14 at 18:01
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    6) New books basically never get a chance to get anywhere near the top of the list, due to point #2, unless you start editing them into other answers, but if you do that, then you're now applying votes that were never cast to that book, to that book, making the votes effectively worthless. – Servy Feb 12 '14 at 18:07

First off: this is something that y'all need to work out among yourselves. There's an ongoing discussion regarding the nature of that question here: Como podemos lidar com as "listas"? and the question itself should probably be locked until that concludes. The folks participating in that discussion - Gabe, bfavaretto, bigown, Bacco, Sergio and others have all raised some valid points, but reading through the (machine-translated) discussion thus far I'm not seeing a clear solution. So to address your point: there's no clear documentation for why it should be closed/reopened because that discussion is still in progress.

Beyond that... I think you're asking why this question would become a focal point for such discussion in the first place. I've been working with Gabe on structuring this discussion, and I'd prefer it stayed on PT.SO, but since you brought it up here I'll try to explain some of the background...

Individual Stack Exchange sites vs. network standards

PT.SO is not Stack Overflow. There's a decent amount of overlap between the membership on both sites right now, but I don't expect this to be true for very long. Because of this, it isn't enough to just transplant the standards and practices currently in effect on Stack Overflow:

If the community doesn't establish their own standards and buy into ours, they won't enforce any of them. As Robert notes, we provide plenty of guidance, but each community must make it their own - and during that process, each site develops a bit of local flavor. Some sites are extremely strict as to form and topic, others are considerably more flexible. And that's ok...

Learning from history is a big part of building a new Stack Exchange community. But this must follow the form of learning from past problems and implementing solutions that work for each individual site: folks who fail to keep this in mind and try to shut down problematic practices with a blunt, "this violates Stack Exchange rules" find themselves perpetually embroiled in heated and unproductive discussions.

Monkeys and ladders and programmers

There's an old story about monkeys and a ladder that's supposed to demonstrate how rules can be passed on long past the point where anyone remembers why they were put into place...

...Turns out, it's probably bunk. Monkeys don't work that way. And neither do programmers. If there's a tasty banana or useful topic to be had, a few old primates yelling about dire consequences are going to be ignored. You have to be able to explain why something is a bad idea - and if at all possible, offer an alternative solution.

Ideally, this can be accomplished without having to make the same mistakes and repeat the same bitter arguments on every new site. But the only way that'll happen is by conducting informed discussions focused on specific problems - sweeping them under the rug doesn't work.


...Which brings us to the topic at hand. Let's face it: that question sucks right now. You don't need years of history on Stack Exchange to tell you that it's not a particularly good reference. But... It does reflect a real need. There's a reason lists of books were popular on Stack Overflow for years and still feature prominently in several wikis (either tag wikis or Community Wiki questions): new programmers who are conscientious enough to actually want to do some self-study desperately want a short list of expertly-chosen books that'll help them do so. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Portuguese community is under-served in this regard as well... Bigown attests to this frustration:

Aside note: Every programming book in portuguese is bad. Every site about programming in portuguesse is bad. SOpt should be the oasis for us.

If the demand for these references was so great on Stack Overflow (where the English-speaking audience has a wealth of existing book lists, Amazon reviews, etc.) that it took us years to be rid of it, imagine how hungry the audience on PT.SO will be! This strikes me as a very real need, and one that will be very difficult to just ignore.

So then, what can be done? If this format for questions is known to work poorly but the audience is clamoring for them anyway, how do we resolve this tension?

Well, that's the point of the discussion that Gabe raised the other day: to get folks involved in finding a way of serving those with a need without hurting the site. I'll note that this is hardly the first time a Stack Exchange site has faced this question: communities as diverse as RaspberryPi and English Language Learners have both found themselves faced with a large, inexperienced audience in desperate need of learning resources, and have found ways to step up to the challenge.

It's not an easy problem to solve, but I have faith that the good folks on PT.SO are up to the challenge.

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    "but each community must make it their own". This is my sole point. The mods are doing their own, as the community closed the question. The reopening could be community driven after the discussion, if they could make their point and convince people to change their minds. Instead, it was forced down the throat. – Bacco Feb 12 '14 at 19:22
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    Also: I thought that "moderator powers" should arise when community fails. Is this the case? – Bacco Feb 12 '14 at 19:26
  • As I said above, the question probably should have been locked while under discussion - I'm not entirely sure why it was reopened instead; I'll find out once I'm off the phone. – Shog9 Feb 12 '14 at 19:31
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    Anyway thanks regarding the faith in our community and interest on the problem. Consider my almost-overreaction as an early ringing bell only. – Bacco Feb 12 '14 at 19:35
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    +1 for Monkeys and Ladders - sometimes the best teaching tool is to let the younger monkeys climb the ladder and find out what happens. (and in this case it's not like all the older monkeys have to get hit with the fire hose: How many of us speak Portuguese?) – voretaq7 Feb 12 '14 at 19:58
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    @Bacco, I reopened the question because we, really want to ensure that we start from a place where we allow most questions that we believe can help programmers, and then vigilantly watch for which ones become a problem or threat to the site. We started from that approach and laid it out in the initial meta post that explicitly talked about needed to allow more while we see how the community evolves. We are extremely committed to this site's success, which is why we believe so strongly that we should allow as much help as we can, and then address the actual problems as they arise. – Jaydles Feb 12 '14 at 20:27
  • I am concerned that if PT.SO allows something, then it will make it more likely that people who use both PT.SO and SO will do the same on SO. As the name of the two sites are so close to each other, I think both sites should have the same policies, or the name of PT.SO should be changed. – Ian Ringrose Feb 18 '14 at 12:10
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    There are going to be differences, @Ian. That's unavoidable - the people are different. They should be subtle, but keep in mind that standards vary between different communities within Stack Overflow so you can expect a slightly exaggerated reflection of this on a different site in a different language. – Shog9 Feb 18 '14 at 17:52

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