If you do a Google Search for Stack Overflow sucks, you get countless rants and complaints.

I know all of the senior contributors have seen Michel T Richter's Why I no longer contribute to Stack Overflow

Most of his reasons are very personal, but in the comments section are many frustrated themes like:

  • "I just wanted help..."
  • "By the time I changed my question the way the moderator wanted, it was closed and or deleted.
  • "If I got some guidance, I wouldn't have a problem asking correctly"

And there are others who want to answer questions, but find it difficult:

  • "by the time I find the question, 3 other's are answering them..."
  • "I know I had the right Idea, but I didn't phrase it right..."

I understand why questions and answers by us junior developers are often unwelcome.

Stack Overflow wants to be a repository of good questions and answers. Questions that are original, insightful, and well phrased. A standard many of us junior developers (and many mid and senior) are not capable of meeting.

All the rants are right. As frustrating as it feels, Stack Overflow isn't a standard Q&A forum. The standards of participation are high. And the reason that junior contributors feel unwelcome is because they are.

Stack Overflow isn't interested in being helpful to individuals, so individuals who can't contribute to that standard are unwelcome. That's the harsh truth.

Maintaining these high standards is hard enough without having to be overly patient or polite. Very hard policing 3.7 million developers with an itch to scratch in the Q or A department.

As a result, Stack Overflow is inundated (correct word?) with unwanted questions and answers. The task of policing them seems to be growing exponentially.

I wish there was a Stack Overflow for dummies

Another site of Stack Exchange (dummies exchange). A real Q&A. With lower standards where us junior users contributors can come and ask our silly questions get constructive feedback on better question asking form.

Those of us who want to take a shot at helping can do so in an environment that is less harsh and scary.

The dummies site would serve multiple needs:

  • Developers could ask for emergency help
  • "low hanging fruit" for those who want to be of help
  • Us Junior or new contributors would get constructive feedback and learn how to contribute to the Stack Overflow standards
  • Hopefully fewer "unwelcome" questions would find themselves on Stack Overflow

  • Questions that don't meet Stack Overflow standards can be "demoted" or moved down to dummies.

    They will benefit by getting the attention they need and somebody will happily help them. It will be easier to deal with "unwelcome" contributions. Little fuss about closing or deleting. Just deal with demoting or promoting.

Think of it as a sandbox or help-with-homework or dummies Forum, but I see a lot of good coming from this.

  • 3
    Before I vote here, I want to ask you if you researched this at all on meta (either on MSO or MSE) and if you have specific points about the similar questions in both places that would make this not a duplicate? May 19 '15 at 0:52
  • 11
    Do you really think that a "Stack Overflow for dummies" would be any less harsh on bad/low-quality questions? We want good content, I don't see how pushing a site for "dummies" would benefit anyone.
    – Taryn StaffMod
    May 19 '15 at 0:52
  • @psubsee2003, I've seen posts about "splitting into tiers" about "just being nicer", I don't this suggestion as anything the same. The idea is a Q&A forum but not for Google Page Ranking and to be "the answer". In fact, this site could just be "no robots" May 19 '15 at 0:53
  • 1
    why is a SO for beginners not splitting into tiers? May 19 '15 at 0:55
  • Tiers is a fair interpretation. I don't see it as tiered b/c no one is limited from going to A or B. It's different purposes. Think of it as "Help with Homework" May 19 '15 at 0:56
  • 8
    "StackOverflow isn't a standard Q&A Forum" Looks like you've answered your own question here. No, Stack Overflow (and the Stack Exchange platform in general) is not a forum. There already exist plenty of forums out there on the internet—don't try to make SE one of them, because it's not. That's not how it was designed. Stack Exchange is a question and answer site, period. So if you want a forum, go somewhere else.
    – Doorknob
    May 19 '15 at 0:58
  • @Doorknob, ok, so I drop the word Forum? Anything different? Or just unappealing? May 19 '15 at 0:59
  • @bluefeet, I'd like to think it's less harsh. If the standards were lower and the moderators had a different approach. May 19 '15 at 1:01
  • 5
    Barring exceptions like MTR, what you don't see on most of those rant sites is the actual quality of questions / general behavior of many of those users. If every SO rant required a screenshot of the last question said ranter asked, you'd have a very different perception. For example, you get stuff like this -> this, and then the user goes off to join the mass whining. So, be wary of a lot of that stuff, the sites just ask that you put as much effort into your questions as you expect others to put into their answers.
    – Jason C
    May 19 '15 at 6:34
  • 4
    (I.e. Your level of knowledge of the topic on the site isn't really a judgment criteria, but your ability to clearly communicate, think on your own, and respect those who volunteer their time to help is.) Also remember when reading the results of biased Google searches like "stackoverflow sucks" that bandwagoning is a natural human behavior, and does happen quite often.
    – Jason C
    May 19 '15 at 6:36
  • @JasonC, I agree. Most of those whiners contradicted themselves. Saying they won't post to SO, isn't the same as not using SO. There is no better tech source, never has been. And the tones of those posters were embarrassing. May 19 '15 at 6:42
  • @JasonC Still, I think there is great value in having a Q&A like SO, but not aimed at having unique questions. There is a need for peer help. The extra traffic going through an SO sight would benefit SO as a business. AND it would keep people with the "homework help" type needs from littering SO. Ideally, win, win, win. May 19 '15 at 6:44
  • 1
    You should have created or followed a proposal on Area 51. I'd wager there have been many attempts to do so, but SE isn't interested in hosting such a website. I don't blame them, either :/
    – user1228
    May 19 '15 at 14:52
  • 1
    Area 51 is where people can propose new sites for the SE network. For example, here's a proposal for StackOverflow, but in russian: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/41168/… Anyone can propose a new site. I tried proposing one called "Why Will is so friggen awesome", but it got shut down. One person did follow it! But that was me. Anyhow, you'd go there and propose "StackOverflow for Dummies". People would follow it if they thought they would like the site. If it survives, it goes into beta.
    – user1228
    May 19 '15 at 15:00
  • 1
    @Won't TY so much for the suggestion. I did join 51 just to follow the reinstated startups. But I didn't realize the enormity of the site. Don't have time but kinda psyched to experiment. May 19 '15 at 15:04

I don't think this is a good idea. On the Stack Exchange Tour, it says

Stack Exchange is a network of 143 communities that are created and run by experts and enthusiasts like you who are passionate about a specific topic. We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise.

Notice it says "We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers." An SO for dummies would literally be the exact opposite of what we want regular SE sites to be. This idea is something I've seen many times on Area 51, things like "StackOverflow for Beginners." These are made by people who maybe posted a bad question on SO, and decided that the users are too harsh.

I think the best way to learn is by failing. So what if you ask a bad question, you didn't give enough info, or it is a typographical error, or something where people close your question. Now you should know that you have to step it up for your next question. Having a Dummies.SE won't solve this problem. We don't need this site.

  • 1
    those of us who are junior are not welcome because we pollute these libraries. But new contributors still come by the Millions. And they pollute the libraries. Give them a sandbox that is not indexed and not for Libraries. They get their help, SE gets clicks, and the Answer Database is not polluted by our nonsense May 19 '15 at 1:09
  • 5
    Plus, Shog once proposed a "Stack Overflow Academy" site which quickly failed. A site like this would likely be no different.
    – Jamal
    May 19 '15 at 1:10
  • @Jamal Hmm, never knew that. Thanks :)
    – michaelpri
    May 19 '15 at 1:10
  • @Jamal, one of the biggest complaints I see is that SO is infested with bad questions from us guys who don't know any better. Give us a place to go so we don't pollute the great Library May 19 '15 at 1:29
  • 4
    @DaveAlperovich I don't think you're one of the newbies, you have 18k rep
    – michaelpri
    May 19 '15 at 1:30
  • 1
    @michaelpri, thanks, but I have a lot to learn. May 19 '15 at 1:37

When I started out on Stack Overflow I was really very new, not only programming, but to web forums and Q&A in general.

And yes my first question experience was mildly frustrating, I was already at wits end with solving my problem and then I had to learn to navigate a strange new place in order to get an answer to my question...

But realistically my question got answered, all I needed to do was communicate clearly and effectively and people were eager to help.

The bar really isn't that high. If you can read and write in fairly reasonable English and use a search engine you should be able to figure out the basics pretty quickly.

I think this whole "Stack Overflow sucks" issue is purely selection/sampling bias, on average unhappy users make more noise than satisfied users.

  • I think SO produces a great value to the industry. I wouldn't change a thing because if I google a question it usually leads me to a great answer on SO. But the standards are higher than most people can maintain or 1) there would never have been a 30K close queue, 2) more than 7% of registered users would participate. May 19 '15 at 1:35
  • These junior users are pushing out their Questions on SO bc they think it's the place to answer their basic homework or how to Questions. And the cleanup is a big job. Give them somewhere to go. May 19 '15 at 1:36
  • 8
    @DaveAlperovich Stack Overflow for Dummies would end up being a bad stepping stone. Users would just post their bad questions there, get bad habits reinforced, and eventually bring those bad habits to the main site.
    – apaul
    May 19 '15 at 1:42
  • that would be the worst case scenario. But does it have to work out that way? I'd like to think with more patient moderators explaining and guiding, they would learn. I'm not saying throw away the stick. Just don't swing as hard. May 19 '15 at 2:10

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