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Recently, I was talking with a friend I had attended school with and I had mentioned to him that I had joined the Stack Overflow community. He is a more experienced programmer than myself and said he too had - at one time - also been a member, and he informed me that I was wasting my time. He said that Stack Overflow is a clique and when he was a member every question and every answer was hit with negative ratings almost the minute after it hit the screen.

Personally I don't have the time nor do I have the desire to participate in a chat (help) community where I am not wanted. I have not been able to find any information that lists the total amount of all time registered members and the total amount of active members. If 90% of the users get forced out this is not likely the community for me as I am a positive person and try to surround myself with positive influences.

I am interested in your responses as I believe they will shed some light on this and I will be able to decide for myself. Should I stay or should I go?

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    This is what we call "butthurt" in the common tongue. It's often found in people who post lousy, poorly researched questions who have no desire in understanding why others would react negatively to them. – Won't Jan 13 '16 at 15:21
  • A little tip: Stack Overflow is really huge. I'd recommend to earn at least 200rep on another stack exchange site (like meta, Ask Ubuntu, OpenSource, etc) which will give you a starting bonus of 100rep on each stack exchange site (including Stack Overflow) – Info-Screen Jan 13 '16 at 19:59
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I think your friend just had a bad experience.

He said that the Stack Overflow a clique and when he was a member every question and every answer was hit with negative ratings almost the minute after it hit the screen.

I can guarantee you that this is not the case now, nor was it ever the case. Just look at the Stack Overflow front page. This is not true. Stack Overflow's mean question score is ~1.733. Additionally, Stack Overflow is not a clique. The simple scale of it makes this impossible. I can't dig up the figures right now, but with millions of users and presumably thousands with higher level moderation privileges of some type, it's impossible for one giant malignant clique to form and survive.

jmac once positively wrote

Just remember that we're all volunteers! There is no Stack Exchange Clique. There is no inner circle. There are just a bunch of people who want to help and want to keep a healthy community long-term. We would love to have you work with us to build that, but that means learning the guidelines, and using the guidelines to help build a better resource. It takes an investment, but nothing is life is truly free. Be grateful that all we ask is learning and consideration.

I would advise anyone new to take his advice into consideration. If you do, you'll have a great Stack Exchange experience.

That said, if you really, really, really feel that you're being harassed, threatened, or forced out, you should get moderator attention by flagging on of the harassers' harassing comments. Stack Exchange is not a place for bullies, nor will it ever be.

If 90% of the users get forced out this is not likely the community for me as I am a positive person and try to surround myself with positive influences.

I'm more than a little doubtful of the 90% figure. People typically don't get "forced out" of Stack Overflow. Their questions may not get answered, or may get some downvotes (if they're terrible questions), but unless they're rude or trolls, they generally won't get "forced out".

  • Using a mean question score is unintentionally misleading. Do you count all the crap that gets deleted? – Deer Hunter Jan 13 '16 at 9:21
  • Then I became a part of the Stack <s>Exchange</s> Overflow Clique. And no longer spread such positivity on meta (in English at any rate). Is it odd to feel motivated by my past self? – jmac Jan 13 '16 at 15:04
  • @DeerHunter I wasn't able to find anything more specific; a median score might have been better. – HDE 226868 Jan 13 '16 at 20:45
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There is a learning curve with anything, and using Stack is no exception.

Stack Overflow, (and the Stack Network of Q&A sites in general) are community-moderated, and I don't just mean via the users with diamonds next to their names. Your reputation (the number on your usercard), represents, well, your reputation - it's a small measure of how much the community trusts a particular user, because questions they've asked and answers they've written have been upvoted. (There are other sources of reputation points, but these are the most common).

As you earn reputation (or 'rep'), you will unlock privileges to use and moderate the site yourself. At 50 rep points, for example, you will be able to leave comments under other people's questions and answers. This is because comments are meant for requesting clarification of a question or answer, not for general chat or 'thanks!' style comments, so it was decided that people who've stuck around long enough to earn 50 rep points (5 upvotes on answers, 10 on questions, or some mix of both) would generally know how to use them.

And as you go up the privileges chain, and we trust you more and more, you'll get access to more 'dangerous' tools, like closing and deleting other people's questions. Generally, by the time you access these tools, you've got a fair idea of the policies of the site and what we're about.


But why do I bring all this up? Because a lot of people that visit the Stack sites assume that we just accept any old question and answer. They're only here to have their question answered, why should they care about the mods, the site, the community? They need an answer, dammit!

What inevitably happens, is that their question gets closed (or their 'answer' deleted), and they get frustrated because they "only came here for an answer" or "it's obvious you don't want my help".

You see, the thing is, Stack Overflow (and the network sites) aren't just trying to be 'any old Q&A site':

Stack Overflow is a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about programming.
- Stack Overflow's Tour

We want our questions and answers to be helpful to more than one person. We strive for questions that are useful, answerable, on-topic and to-the point. It's why

  • Open-ended topics
    • "I want to install Javascript",
  • Questions which are chatty or trivial
    • "Javascript sucks, do you agree?"
  • And blatantly off topic questions
    • "How do I install a new graphics card?"

are regularly closed and deleted (or potentially migrated to another site RE: the latter one)

As time went on, we discovered other 'problem' topic areas, and started removing questions about those too. On Stack Overflow, that is:

  • Questions you haven't tried to find an answer for (show your work!)
  • Product or service recommendations or comparisons
  • Requests for lists of things, polls, opinions, discussions, etc.
  • Anything not directly related to writing computer programs
    - Stack Overflow's Tour

However, we also

  • Edit posts we deem salvageable
  • Flag problem posts and comments for review (Spam, Rude/Offensive, Not An Answer, Low Quality, Off-topic etc)
  • Reopen questions which the asker or others have clarified
  • Constantly clarify our policies on the site-specific meta sites (this meta site is for the entire network)
  • Close and point askers to duplicates that solve their problem (Dupes aren't bad!)

All these things we do (and more) in the betterment of the sites (and the world!) in general.

But back to the topic of 'cliques' you were talking about: Does doing any of the above make us a 'clique'? Maybe to people who don't know why we do those things, but I can assure you that it is not by some secret design or 'clubhouse' rules. We try to be as welcoming as possible.

I won't say that you wont come across groups of 'friendships' here, nor will you agree with each and every user you come across. However friendships are just that: friendships - they don't influence the site at large (and if they did, they would be a small bubble in a large ocean, and would be overruled when necessary). If any conversation turns uncivil, all you have to do is flag for a diamond moderator's attention and walk away. Behaviour like that is strictly not tolerated.

Anyway, if you read all that without getting bored, then welcome to Stack Overflow! (and Network Sites/Stack Exchange/whatever we're calling ourselves now :) )

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I am definitely not one of the most experienced members here, and I - like your friend - got murdered on some of my questions and answers. I simply deleted them if I could and went on my way. Yes, it can be frustrating when you are trying to find out how to do something and your question gets marked or edited for grammar mistakes, or gets hit by the wrath of the negative voters, but, it is important to remember why you are involved in the first place.

Are you looking to help? Looking for help? Trying to earn reputation points?

Don't let someone else's bad experience ruin your experiences, you never know for what the truth is until you experience it for yourself. Good Luck and I hope you hang around.

  • +1 For "it is important to remember why you are involved in the first place. Are you looking to help? Looking for help? Trying to earn reputation points?" Thanks for summarising exactly what I was trying to say haha – Robotnik Jan 13 '16 at 4:26
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    I don't think it is a good idea to delete posts that you get "murdered" on. It is far better to improve them to encourage removal of some downvotes and addition of some upvotes. – PolyGeo Jan 14 '16 at 8:10
  • @PolyGeo I agree with that ideal. However, that is much easier for those who have been around a while than for those who are posting their first question. If this recent -3 voted question were my very first post, I might not have ever posted another question. – Christopher Bottoms Feb 5 '16 at 16:21
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A lot of great stuff has already been covered in the other answers. I do want to say that no one gets "forced out" of Stack Overflow except users who are banned, and as far as I know they don't even ban people, they just suspend them for various periods of time for breaking the rules in typically flamboyant manner. Sometimes people can be blocked from asking questions, but that only occurs after they ask several poorly-received questions.

If you're a conscientious person who values their time, I doubt you'll have a problem with following the rules; conscientious people are the kind to find out why their question is seen as poor quality, and how to fix it after the first instance of a poorly-received question.

I've seen cases where users/former users/the general public say things like "SO is a clique where everyone hates you". In my view, those people are definitely taking a pessimistic and myopic view. They also probably didn't bother doing basic research before asking a question here.

There are also totally different cultures within each site on the network; Stack Overflow is, understandably, the most strict. It's been around the longest, and has had the most growth and input from the community over time. But other, less serious sites, like SciFi.StackExchange and LifeHacks.StackExchange are way more open-ended, and they throw around upvotes like candy at a parade. It's next to impossible to feel like you're being shunned or "forced out" from this kind of site.

  • I think some of the 'throwing around upvotes' can be attributed to the other sites getting less traffic and therefore people see less questions/day and are more likely to spend more time looking at the ones that are asked. :) – Robotnik Jan 14 '16 at 0:41
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    In terms of 'strictness', SO definitely does take the cake with suggested edits - multiple times I've suggested substantial edits (placing code in code blocks, fixing bad grammar (in prose of course, not code) etc which were just outright rejected. Once I even had someone 'Reject and Edit', only for them to apply the exact change I was suggesting. Fun times. – Robotnik Jan 15 '16 at 7:09

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