Per Jeff's request, redirecting here:

I have a question about using SO as a forum to publish content.

Now that the next ISO C++ standard is pretty much locked down, I’m thinking of going back and revising all my popular Internet-published Guru of the Week (GotW) articles, which along with my traditional magazine articles were eventually assembled into my three Exceptional C++ books.

The first time around, during 1997-2003, I initially published each GotW as follows:

  • post problem #N in news:comp.lang.c++.moderated
  • let people discuss it for a week or three
  • post solution #N (and problem N+1)
  • further polish problem/solution #N and make it an Item in my next book

Now that I’m going to do it all over again (revising and republishing them one at a time, as well as writing new ones covering new C++0x features, and then eventually republishing them in Exceptional C++ 2nd ed. etc.), I’m wondering what the right modern “programmer discussion forum” place is. I’ll probably still post them to comp.lang.c++.moderated for old time’s sake, but it’s not the preeminent “The Place C++ Programmers Hang Out” location it used to be.

If anything, that’s Stack Overflow these days. I can’t think of a better current match for a participatory programmer hangout with threaded discussion (and more, voting and stuff of course... even if I may need to tolerate the possibility of my questions and answers getting edited, though I'll probably ignore all non-typo edits for book purposes). And I think it would be good for both GotW and SO -- for GotW to reach more C++ developers who would benefit from the material, and for SO to get more of just the kind of expert-Q&A-on-good-and-common-programming-questions that it's designed for.

What do you think? Appropriate or not? Would you prefer I do/don’t use SO as the main forum for new-and-improved GotW C++ article discussion? Are you okay with me posting copyrighted content (I would probably want to include a small copyright notice on every GotW problem or solution)?



P.S.: Jeff, a public congrats again on all you’ve accomplished at SO!

  • even if I may need to tolerate the possibility of my questions and answers getting edited, though I'll probably ignore all non-typo edits for book purposes -> Edits are basically only done to correct typos, grammar, dead links and the such. The FAQ says that it's "like wikipedia" but it really isn't, no one will edit your post and change your sentences except for fixing bad english – Thomas Bonini Mar 27 '10 at 18:28
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    Wow, never seen anybody namedropping themselves. At least I never mention my thirteen books (two best sellers, NYT, btw), my oscar winning drama "Ponies and Ice Cream Cake" and the gold record I cut with Fergie... – user1228 Mar 27 '10 at 19:47
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    @Will: What exactly do you find wrong here? That he mentioned the previous GotWs turned into books and that is also the plan for the new content? C'mon. – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 20:33
  • Actually, I had a revelation... Reminded me of a community college instructor that told me River Phoenix asked him once, "Why aren't you president?" The vomiting fit I consequently experienced has scarred me subconsciously, thus making me much more sensitive to it, thus my too-harsh comment. I apologize for overreacting. – user1228 Apr 12 '10 at 19:58
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    Would be great fun to close questions as "Not constructive" or "Not a real question" or post comments asking - "first show us what you have tried" - or downvote questions as "not enough research". – user93353 Apr 20 '13 at 18:43

I think GotW installments would be terrific on StackOverflow. It would have to fall under the cc-wiki license, because we make dumps of the site available regularly, and people who consume those dumps will assume that they fall entirely under the same license.

  • I don't think the cc-wiki should be a problem. All he'd have to do is when he writes in the book give a link back to the SO question(which would be good to do anyway.) He just must realize that someone else can publish his question.. but it's on the internet, so it's freely available so I see any problems he should have. – Earlz Mar 27 '10 at 4:44
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    @earlz: "All he'd have to do..." That's not true. As long as he uses only his own content (which he indicated he would), he can do with it whatever he wants, with or without mentioning Stack Overflow. – balpha Mar 27 '10 at 6:40
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    @earlz, @balpha: balpha is 100% right. He can license his own content to different entities in different ways; for example he can license it under cc-wiki on stack overflow and license it as "all rights reserved" in his books (however this won't stop people reposting the articles taken from SO under cc-wiki) – Thomas Bonini Mar 27 '10 at 18:25

Just so that you have context for this request, if you're wondering "who the heck is this Herb Sutter guy?"


Some sample "Guru of the Week" posts:


If these can be roughly made to fit the Stack Overflow Q&A format, I am tentatively for this, because I think it's a great (and useful) addition to the programming community on Stack Overflow.

I should also note that we allow Code Golf (mostly, with caveats) and this wouldn't be that conceptually different.

  • I started to say this doesn't seem like a contest (code golf) at all, but then realized that multiple questions per question, as GotW's traditional format has, are something that's discouraged on SO. It's hard for other people to answer and the "noise" of voting at that point can make it hard to follow the answers. – Gnome Mar 26 '10 at 22:58
  • @gnome right, that's why I think the format might need some adjustment -- I was also thinking of the negatives of multiple "questions" per post. – Jeff Atwood Mar 26 '10 at 23:02
  • @Gnome, yea a few of those do only ask 1 question and one even seems like a code-golf. I'd definitely recommend to @Herb that he makes one question per posting and/or 1-3 questions that are very tightly connected and related. (which is common on SO) – Earlz Mar 27 '10 at 4:50
  • Re "1-3 questions are very tightly connected and related". Yes, they always are -- they are not multiple questions as much as multiple parts, designed to be tightly related to focus on the same essential question/issue. Many of the individual questions wouldn't work as well as standalone questions. My expectation would be that each answer attempt to answer the whole thing (or whatever parts the person wants to try), and be voted up/down based on how well they answer the overall cohesive package. It's often hard to answer later parts without also answering earlier parts anyway. Does that help? – Herb Sutter Mar 27 '10 at 18:44
  • @Herb: I foresee someone answering part 1 of 3 decently well and submitting (SO's voting plus current user behavior encourages answering first and fast), while someone else will not want to repeat or spend time on part 1, so only answer part 2. Then someone might answer part 1 in a different way, and everyone is busy looking at parts 1 and 2 (with answers for them likely with a high vote and at the top for most people) while ignoring the (probably much harder) part 3. Suddenly the non-threaded nature of the answers can turn the voting into noise. – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 22:04
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    I have seen this happen even with well-written questions, so at least think about it. A trial run is probably the best way to tell, as Neil suggests. One handy example of the above is stackoverflow.com/questions/1073958; well-asked, but once part A was answered, the attention dropped off. – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 22:05
  • @herb I think you need to be make it VERY VERY clear in the question that all answers MUST answer every part of the question, and any that don't will be downvoted or flagged for moderator attention. – Jeff Atwood Mar 27 '10 at 22:28
  • @Jeff: Given how GotW parts are often broken down into different "difficulty categories", is it smart to effectively exclude those who can't answer the most difficult parts? Even interpreting "not useful" for the downvotes as "didn't answer the full question" seems a big departure and possible source for a ton of confusion from users. – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 23:35
  • @Jeff, @Gnome: I've added a hopefully-helpful suggestion (independent of the GotW question) about whether multi-part questions would be a useful addition to SO, to deal with inherently complex/multi-part questions and let the best answers to each part bubble up. It's at meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/44297/… (I also mentioned this link under another answer, sorry for the repetition). – Herb Sutter Mar 28 '10 at 1:14

I think the format will need to change. In particular, I'd like to see one question per question, in order not to set a bad example. If we allow multiple questions, then there will be someone who says, "well, Herb did it"!

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    +1 we must all adhere to the SOFU format. – IAbstract Mar 27 '10 at 14:36
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    Actually, no, -1: see some GotW articles. Many of them already contain only one question; the others contain many different but very similar questions (and this happens in normal SO questions too, and it's allowed as far as I know). I think that splitting them up in separate threads would be counter productive in most (but possibly not all) cases – Thomas Bonini Mar 27 '10 at 19:54
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    @Kop: I answered after seeing gotw.ca/gotw/059.htm. I do not agree that these are "very similar questions". If someone on SO asked these questions, I'd request that they ask separate questions. – John Saunders Mar 27 '10 at 20:18
  • I didn't see that particular one, and yes, that one would better be split. But it appears to be the exception: I've seen a dozen random ones and all of them would fit nicely into the SOFU format – Thomas Bonini Mar 27 '10 at 22:08
  • @Kop: Since you agree that one should be split, it seems you concede my point. -1+1=0? – John Saunders Mar 28 '10 at 9:49

How about posting a single new GotW question as an SO question and seeing how the C++ community there responds? Asking questions about whether it is acceptable on Meta is all very well, but it's how it goes down on SO that is really important.

  • I'm not against trying one as an experiment, but would rather be able to have a clear understanding of how it would work, including having basic answers like how to handle multi-part questions (which are inherent in the socratic GotW style that lead the reader along a path while asking them to use what they know to discover the path themselves). – Herb Sutter Mar 28 '10 at 0:56
  • The trouble with just throwing out a random experiment is that it risks wasting people's time on something that's just not a good fit (and emails of the form "why did you post that inappropriate stuff here, you interloper?") and/or setting expectations that it will continue before that's known (and emails of the form "why did you stop posting here after the first one, you tease?"), and probably other reactions. It's helpful to at least have some idea of what I'm doing before I start. – Herb Sutter Mar 28 '10 at 0:57
  • @Herb Of course. But if you do decide to go ahead, please do try it with a single, uni-part, new question to guage the reaction. Of all the people who have answered here, only David Thornley annd I are very active on the SO C++ tags, so the replies and guidance you get here may not be very representative of the reaction you will get on SO. – nb69307 Mar 28 '10 at 13:04

Personally, I'd love to see this. However, it does have to fit SO, rather than changing SO to fit GotW.

SO has no threaded discussion, except somewhat in the comments. The answers deliberately change order. It is best suited for asking one question per question, and collecting individual answers. Replies from the original poster should be done via editing the question or in comments. The license issues have already been pointed out.

I don't think Community Wiki status is necessary. Almost all the previous GotW questions have been questions with definite answers that are correct or not, while CW tends to be used for the softer questions, or at least questions with less definite correctness. You don't have to post the answer as an answer, but could edit the question instead.

  • I agree with not changing SO to fit GotW. It would need to be a mutual good fit. FYI I've just suggested multi-part questions at meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44297/… , but only because it seems like this would be a general good feature that would help naturally complex questions in general (including existing good questions that have encountered this issue), not-repeat-not just because of GotW. And did I mention that I'm not asking this for the sake of GotW? Oh, good, okay. :-) – Herb Sutter Mar 28 '10 at 1:11

I say go for it.

But keep in mind, most users don't read meta, won't know what's going on, and no amount of disclaimers will help with that. Every post will still be vetted by pretty much the same process as the rest of the site.

With that in mind, no matter what we say here, too much deviation from the normal format probably just won't work. You may have to re-write a lot the posts to fit the single question/answer format. And too much answering your own question can attract downvotes as well, so CW is likely the way to go.

Really, you sound like a better fit as a partner for the How-To Geek site.

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    I suggest creating a gotw tag and using the rosetta-stone tag, and ones like gotw.ca/gotw/041.htm could probably be tagged code-golf – Earlz Mar 27 '10 at 4:56
  • Are you saying that both the questions, and answers should be CW, or just the answers? – Brad Gilbert Mar 27 '10 at 14:47
  • Probably just the answers. Making the question CW also prevents anyone else from earning rep when they answer. – Joel Coehoorn Mar 27 '10 at 15:39
  • I just looked at the CW rules. It seems likely that GotW posts could become CW most of the time, with no way to stop it. Could that be a problem? – Herb Sutter Mar 27 '10 at 18:37
  • @Herb: If you mean that 30 answers automatically turns everything into CW, I don't think that would be a problem (even if/when it does happen). CW is treated slightly less like wiki by some, and more for how it affects rep; if you're worried about random users editing CW posts, that kind of abuse is dealt with. Did I understand you correctly? – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 23:40
  • @Gnome: Yes, the 30-answer part in particular stood out. – Herb Sutter Mar 28 '10 at 1:22

My understanding is you'd be licensing all content under SO's license (linked in the page footer), in case you weren't clear with your "posting copyrighted content". Any copyright notices would be removed (by editors), similarly to how greetings and closings are removed, since they are redundant and contrary to SO convention.

As I'm sure you're well-aware, you can still publish your content in book form, but if you include any content or improvements from SO, those are subject to SO's license, and you could have to apply that license (or compatible) to the whole book.

That said, I would appreciate more GotWs, as the previous ones have helped me greatly. Thanks!

  • Are you sure the license has to apply to the whole book, and not just the content in question? – Pekka Mar 26 '10 at 22:40
  • No, I am not a lawyer, but it is a possibility I'd rather see discussed beforehand rather than after the fact. – Gnome Mar 26 '10 at 22:41
  • Re licensing: Yes, that's my general understanding. Addison-Wesley would need to tell me they're okay with free publication of the initial base material under a CC license. They were okay with free publication of the initial base material under just a "copyright me" non-license last time around. – Herb Sutter Mar 26 '10 at 22:42
  • Re including content: Right, I never take content written by others into my books. Occasionally if there's a point that I didn't mention but that I think is worth covering in revised answer for the book, I'll write my own treatment of it (generally longer and with more details and examples) -- that's true no matter where the suggestion/request to mention that point comes from. – Herb Sutter Mar 26 '10 at 22:42
  • @Herb: I knew you'd familiar with these issues, so thanks for clarifying. – Gnome Mar 26 '10 at 22:45
  • @Pekka: Re application to the whole book, I was thinking that if every question included some content from SO users, especially community vetted and edited answers, then there's cause to think the whole book would be a derivative work, since CC is viral with the share-alike clause. However, not using any content from SO users is an easy way to clearly avoid that issue in the first place. (And again, IANAL, I only want these concerns addressed up front.) – Gnome Mar 27 '10 at 23:46

Could you show us some samples?

It's an interesting idea, if you can manage to trim each article down to a question for people to answer. Could you take a few of the GotW postings, make them into SO-like questions, and post them on your blog so we can get a better idea of what you're thinking?

Posting something more akin to a discussion topic is fine for Usenet, but might get a question closed for one of the reasons (copied from the "close question" form) mentioned below.

  • subjective and argumentative

    It's impossible to objectively answer this question; questions of this type are too open ended and usually lead to confrontation and argument.

  • not a real question

    It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.


I'd like to see this done. I expect the community will be tentatively ok with it, but you might want to add a comment below each question pointing to the discussion here so people can look into it a bit further before reacting negatively to it. Lots of people are pretty sensitive to things that even remotely resemble spam.

Also, please consider tagging it with GOTW so it's easy to see and get an RSS feed for it. I'd like to follow them.

But the community usually reacts pretty well to high level and in-depth conversations, as long as it's a question that can be answered.

So go for it!

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