Recently I had the nerve to criticize the closing of questions and the ease someone could gain or lose points in this game ;). Here is the link:

Why do some questions get closed for no reason?

Now I am either trying to make this trilogy of sites a friendlier place, or trying to get zero rep points. After not receiving a response from Mr. Atwood I thought I should cool off and ask others if it was me being a butt-head (that hardly ever happens). I am not alone in my opinion.

Let me say again that I am not advocating an any question policy. If you want to know the timing for your 427 CI / 500 HP motor, this ain't the forum. If you want an algorithm / code to calculate CI or HP then SO should be fine with that. And who cares if it is homework? I am 55 and am quite certain there is a lot still to be learned.

Someone said that this is a democratic process. Huh??? If so then wouldn't it take more than 5 votes to get tossed. I assume that there are more that 9 contributors.

When it comes to reputations my first vote would be for no scoring mechanism at all. I have this same criticism of all the forums I troll. The person with a bizillion points that weighs in on any subject has to be noticed. What is not accounted for is where the points were earned. You may have earned all of the points in some language related topic, and then make a bozo comment in a network related topic. Just today I happened to spot an old link talking about GPS Timing. There were people there with a lot higher points than me that were "Stratum 0" this and that all over the place. It was a bunch of BS of course. So really, in a lot of cases reputation doesn't mean much other than you have been around awhile and don't say a lot of stupid things. Most of us can spot the smart people without the score being kept. The ability to express an opinion that is scored should be a lot harder than it is.

I am still waiting for an answer to why Mr. Atwoods question "How much network latency is “typical” for east - west coast USA?" wasn't closed for being vague, hypothetical, etc.

Are these sites about knowledge or popularity?

I have become brutal in my opinions over programming / networking knowledge in the last year. The reason for that is because I went from being a chicken to a pig. When you have a microcomputer running in your chest that is capable of administering a shock that could kill you stuff like that happens.

I suspect I will attain one of my goals.

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    Just a quick note in case you're not familiar with Meta. On Meta, unlike on StackOverflow, downvotes mean "I don't agree". This means that reputation on meta is very different from reputation on StackOverflow, and you could end up with a low rep on Meta if everything you say is not agreed upon. If you want to gain some rep on meta, make sure your questions have freehand circles and your answers reference unicorns or waffles. – The Unhandled Exception May 10 '10 at 16:26
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    Also, you're unlikely to garner any support by calling SO a forum, by calling yourself a troll or by blaming potential future inappropriate behavior on your pacemaker. – Pops May 10 '10 at 16:29
  • It is not a pacemaker only. It is a pacing ICD and the only fun in having it is blaming it for everything. And if at night I happen to lay so that it presses against bones it sings to me, which I assume is the oscillator being amplified. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 16:41
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    I've read your whole post twice, and I still don't understand your question. – Randolpho May 10 '10 at 16:45
  • Are these sites about knowledge or popularity? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 16:54
  • See this feature request: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/125/… – Lance Roberts May 10 '10 at 16:56
  • All of it seems overly complicated. Why not just ignore the questions unless they are way off topic or offensive. I like simple and friendly, but that is just my opinion. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:04
  • How do you find out who voted for you / post? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:22
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    @dbasnett, you don't, voting is anonymous – Lance Roberts May 10 '10 at 17:25
  • @dbasnett: there is no way to find out who voted for questions/answers. not even diamond mods have that ability. – Kip May 10 '10 at 17:27
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    "criticism of all the forums I troll" - admitted troll? – Josh K May 10 '10 at 17:34
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    Troll as in fishing, but if I need to be a troll then so be it. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:35
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    Ugh, can we please do something to stem the tide of rambling questions criticizing every aspect of the site without understanding anything about how or why it actually works? What is this question even saying? Get rid of the reputation system? Yeah, OK, we'll get right on that. – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 22:09
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    Did you mean trawl as in fishing (not troll)? – davidsleeps May 10 '10 at 22:22
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    @dbasnett: Oh, really? Seems to me that in one post you've simultaneously maligned the closing system, the reputation system, Jeff Atwood, Jeff Atwood's question, high-rep users for apparently answering questions they're not qualified to answer because the questions are outside their area of expertise, and the community in general for being a popularity contest. And what's more, all of these topics have been covered before; apparently, the new strategy against getting questions closed as dupes is to duplicate so many questions at the same time that nobody can decide which one is the dupe. – Aarobot May 10 '10 at 23:19

why Mr. Atwoods question "How much network latency is “typical” for east - west coast USA?" wasn't closed for being vague, hypothetical, etc.

How much network latency is "typical" for east - west coast USA?

It is no more vague or unanswerable than

How long does it "typically" take to drive from LA to San Fransicso in a car?

Quite answerable. Within a certain range of variance, obviously, but unless you're going to be an absurdist (what if you take a wrong turn at Albequerque! What if you had a rocket car!), this is something that can be estimated pretty reliably and consistently.

Really the quality of the question and its answers stands for itself. You will learn something from reading it. I know I did, and that's always my goal.

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    No, actually I didn't. But you just assumed that I didn't build part of the internet, so i don't blame you for your arrogance. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 21:55
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    @dbasnett I'm sorry you're so much smarter than the rest of us, I guess. – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 21:59
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    How was I supposed to react to this "You will learn something from reading it." Ask yourself why you said it? Did you enjoy the public ridicule? Or maybe I am a liar? How does it feel to have a question closed? Do you know? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:04
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    Since you decided to reply have you noticed how my rep points started to decline. You weighed in, now I can be the bad guy. I don't care about the points, I am just asking you to take a step back and look at your sites through someone elses eyes. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:07
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    @dbasnett I just think it's funny that you ask "Are these sites about knowledge or popularity?" while making an overt appeal to authority as "I built the internet, so I should know!" See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 22:10
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    Do you make it a habit to misquote people? I was simply trying to make the point that your experience "...I know I did" isn't everyones. Did you think I would pick on a topic that I wasn't smart about. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:28
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    @dbasnett rather than waste time in this rather pointless discussion, why can't you show off how knowledgable you are by contributing answers? Fill the world with so much high quality information that all the "lesser" knowledge (my question, apparently, though I learned a lot from it) is drowned out by your "greater" knowledge. Be the change you want to see. – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 22:37
  • I do. Normally just not here. I am not hard to find though. If you want to see me ignorant just go to vbforums and search my id. Look from the oldest to the newest. I amaze me that I was that ignorant. I am disappointed in your arrogance. It will make reading your blog difficult. But that is just my opinion. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:41
  • Just for a moment assume that everything I have said about my career is true, and you are me. How do you feel when you ask a question about networking and the question is closed because of the wording, or some other minor offense? What would you think? Are you capable of walking in the other guys shoes? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:45
  • I made this comment yesterday in your question I have been using as an example; "In a vacuum a photon can travel the equator in roughly 134 ms. The same photon in glass would take around 200 ms. A 3,000 mile piece of fiber has 24 ms. of delay without any devices." Should I have blasted away at the sloppiness of the prior poster in not taking into account the refractive index of glass, or not stating the assumption. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 23:17
  • I marked your answer as "the" answer and upvoted all the other answers. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 23:35
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    @dbasnett I liked your comment on my SF answer and I upvoted it earlier (though it should have been a comment on the answer it was referring to). Now can we kindly get more of THAT -- namely, information, from knowledgable users that helps everyone in the world -- and less of THIS ... namely, rambling, ranty, pointless meta-discussion that helps nobody? :) – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 23:51
  • It is your party, you can do whatever you want. No crying ;), but you won't see me anymore or less than you currently do. A real heart breaker I know. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 23:56

First, the vote to close mechanism is democratic. Experienced users of the site can vote to close a question that they think isn't a good question for the site, or they can vote to reopen one they think has been wrongly closed. You don't honestly expect us to wait until tens of thousands of users have voted to take action on each individual question, do you?

As for your real question:

Are these sites about knowledge or popularity?

I think they're mostly about knowledge, otherwise they wouldn't work. Sure, some people are influenced by another user's reputation or name recognition, but I've posted enough wrong answers to know that people will jump on me with both feet when I do, despite reputation, badges, or even the ♦ next to my name.

Users get high reputation by providing good answers and questions. Don't be surprised when you see someone with a high reputation getting more. They got where they are for a reason. If you think you see high-rep users getting upvotes based on their reputation score and not the content of their specific answer, please link to it. Let us all look at it and decide for ourselves. <-- Found the link, so that's not really valid.

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  • If you are going to use the word democratic, then yes, that is what I mean. My big issue isn't so much about reputation, it is about closing question based on the opinion of a few users. In the original link the question was obviously homework, but was IMHO a good learning opportunity. If my points aren't valid then why wasn't Mr. Atwoods post closed? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 16:54
  • Don't get me wrong. I see plenty of examples where the information exchange is high. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 16:58
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    @dbasnett: The word democratic is used because even though it only takes five votes (or one from a ♦ moderator) to close, it also only takes five to reopen. In cases where the community cannot agree, the ♦s often step in to make the decision (which is usually respected). There has to be some form of moderation; the community chose to honor the moderation abilities of those who -- as you say in the question -- "have been around awhile and don't say a lot of stupid things." This is because they are the most likely to know what the community will & won't accept. – John Rudy May 10 '10 at 17:04
  • @dbasnett: I just found the question you were talking about and linked to it. I was looking on Stack Overflow before. I think the question you linked to was closed for being rambling, not for being homework. A lot of questions on homework stay opened on SO if they're asked in the proper way. ("Please send me the code." will get closed every time.) Jeff's question is probably still open on SF because the community there thinks it's a good question for that site. A few users can close it, but it only takes a few more to open it back up. – Bill the Lizard May 10 '10 at 17:06
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    Excuse me, use of the word incorrectly doesn't change WHAT it really means. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:10
  • @bill - or maybe it is because he is Jeff. It looked pretty vague to me. And thanks for making my point. Not only do you have to ask questions approved by the few, they also must meet certain literary criteria. Am I not being clear. We all have opinions, and most of us think those opinions are correct. I got voted off an island at SO once because I was stupid and posted a VB answer to a C# question. It didn't matter that the algorithm would have helped them. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:18
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    @dbasnett: If you think Jeff's question is too vague, you can vote to close it. Yes, of course your questions have to meet certain minimum literary standards. How can anyone understand them if they don't? Luckily there are a lot of people who volunteer their time to edit unclear questions when they're able. – Bill the Lizard May 10 '10 at 17:49
  • "I've posted enough wrong answers to know that people will jump on me with both feet when I do" Ain't that the truth! I don't have a fancy-schmancy diamond next to my name, but I've a fair enough amount of rep, and boy do I drop some stupid answers sometimes. Although 2am on a Friday night isn't always the best time to be answering SO questions... Funny thing though: the guy who jumped on my bad answer at that time? Jon Skeet. Does the man never sleep? – Randolpho May 10 '10 at 17:54
  • I was referring to the post you said was rambling. It wasn't the best asked question, but I didn't have a problem with it. Nice try. Hey Dewayne, participate in something you don't believe in. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:54
  • I am all about a good debate, lively banter, so long as at the end of the day something was learned. You can call me stupid and down vote me all you want, but please respect my question if I took the time to ask it. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:57
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    @dbasnett if it's a well asked question. How about respecting the time of the people so generously contributing their own time to answer these questions? They're doing all the work, so I will unashamedly and unabashedly err on the side of protecting the answerers. If you don't agree, I'm sure there are other sites where "anything goes" is a criteria for asking. Unfortunately, they all look like Yahoo Answers. Perhaps these two things are related? Just a thought. – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 21:29
  • I think I have made it clear that I am not talking about good questions. I am talking about how arrogant a person has to be to be dismissive about questions on the edge. It isn't for me. If you want a comparison look at VBForums. I find it difficult to post questions here because of the inherent ridicule of having a question closed because of someones opinion. The more I read the more convinced that many of you have lost track of the fact that your opinion is only opinion. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:00

Are these sites about knowledge or popularity?

I can't speak for the other sites, but StackOverflow is about knowledge. I'm a high-rep user on SO and almost all the rep I've gained has been garnered by supplying technically correct answers. On the other hand, I don't think I can be described as being particularly popular, and my answers also regularly attract downvotes - so it goes.

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  • I wish I had started two threads. Reps are the least of the two problems. The big one that I will never get over, is the arbitrary closing of questions. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:46
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    @dbasnett I am the question closing king, it seems, and I can assure you that the reasons I vote to close questions are not "arbitrary". – nb69307 May 10 '10 at 17:48
  • You mean your opinion is that the questions need to be closed? From a strictly by the book perspective, I thought Jeff's post should have been closed. That is not what I did. You might argue that I was harsh in my response, but in truth I gave some good feedback, in my opinion. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 18:05
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    @dbasnett No, I meant my reasons are not arbitrary - in other words they are not chosen at random but rather carefully thought out. – nb69307 May 10 '10 at 18:07
  • In your opinion. I have the opinion that giving an answer and being a little rude / mean is acceptable, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I answer that way sometimes. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 18:11

How many cases can you point to where a user's popularity allows him/her to post a question that would normally be closed? It has to be very small, on the order of 0.01% of all questions. Most high-rep users don't really post that many questions. (After all, you can earn way more rep from answers, which is usually how they got the rep in the first place.) Jeff's question you link to is well-written and I don't think it would be closed even if it were asked by a more novice user.

The most egregious example I can think of is Joel's infamous How do I move the turtle in LOGO?. That has 178 upvotes, 22 downvotes, and might have been closed if it weren't Joel that asked it. But I think these examples are so few and far-between that they don't represent any real systemic problem that requires action.

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  • The only facts I know are that I have seen plenty of questions closed for what I thought (my opinion not to be confused for fact) were arbitrary reasons. It amazed me to find out that many other people found these sites to have an unfriendly feel to them. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 17:34

Responding to this only:

Someone said that this is a democratic process. Huh??? If so then wouldn't it take more than 5 votes to get tossed. I assume that there are more that 9 contributors.

What you're talking about is a direct democracy. What we have here at SOFU is not a direct democracy, but a representative democracy, where elected members of the community vote to open or close questions. Here at SOFU, we elect our representatives through voting on their questions and answers. Another topic is that a democracy does not require that a majority of all representatives, but only a majority of those present. Thus, we don't need at X members with >10K reputation to vote to close, only 5, but if more than 5 disagree, the question will be reopened.

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  • I don't see the turnip truck you think I fell off of. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:47
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    @dbasnett No, I'm just explaining why it's democratic. As to the rest of your post, I have no opinion yet. – waiwai933 May 10 '10 at 22:52
  • What a coincidence that the points went south as soon as the heavyweights showed up. Maybe I can still attain one of my goals. A poster in another forum said that these sites are about answers, but that their forum "...is a place for answers and love." One day you will get it. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:53
  • I was just being a smart*ss because you thought I don't understand what the process is. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:54
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    @dbasnett Four things: 1) I didn't downvote you. 2) On MSO, downvotes only signal disagreement, not disapproval. 3) 1 is the minimum rep score. 4) The point of SOFU is not to build a community, but answers. Do I disagree with this? Partially. But this is still how this stands. Forums are a great place for community, though. – waiwai933 May 10 '10 at 22:55
  • Sorry, I was speaking to the royal "we", the population in general. I like my answers, but give me both and you have a winner. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:59
  • @dbasnett I'm confused about one thing. Your post is a list of grievances, many of which are reasonable grievances. But the only question I see is in the title of your question. Is that the question you'd like a response to? – waiwai933 May 10 '10 at 23:02
  • My list was two items, and only one of them really concerns me. I think I have been answered, don't you. Besides, it is food and meds time and I need to get ready to watch the Big Bang Theory. Sheldon / sex?????? – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 23:06

A community is a complex, multi-headed, beast. This particular set of communities exhibits behaviors that result from the interactions of the rules and structures of the site, the personalities of hundreds of individuals, and an ethos that has evolved over time.

You seem to be applying a reductionist approach in trying and to characterize its activities in terms like 'popularity over knowledge.' It's not a meaningful question. And you just spent about 10 comments harassing Jeff Atwood over the relative merits of one of his questions and one of yours. You know, he doesn't have to respond to you at all. He could just leave you to the tender mercies of the 'meta' community, which is a bit like being thrown into a pot of snark soup. Before you accuse him of egotism, you might want to ask yourself what octave of egotism (or lack thereof) is implied by his willingness to engage with you.

Individuals vote to close, or delete, or reopen, based on their particular interpretation of the question and the criteria. And, yes, in some cases, based on their views of style, personality, and the phase of the moon.

Those of us who invest time in these sites find that, averaged over all the questions, we're get satisfaction out of our efforts. Even if quite regularly we see something of surpassing stupidity.

Plenty of people pack themselves up in a huffman code and drive off. You could be the next. If you are going to wind yourself this far up over one question, you're not going to be happy here.

And please put the age card aside, some of the rest us have been around for about as long as you have.

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  • Wow, reasonableness. I only have the one problem with the site. It isn't for me because it lacks personality. As far as the ego thing goes, it is the fabled two-edged sword. IMHO good / great people in this industry have to have it. I know for a fact that I do, not that I am good or great. Actually I am not wound up at all, I have got a lot done in between my rants. I love a good debate, even when I lose like today. I am not certain, but did I detect a note of I should feel awed that the Jeff Atwood engaged with me? – dbasnett May 11 '10 at 0:10
  • @dba -- no. You shouldn't be awed that Jeff responded to you. On balance, I'd say that his tendency to show up in these conversations speaks well for him, but not to the point of inspiring awe. Or even awe shucks. – Rosinante May 11 '10 at 0:19

Well this has been fun. I have expressed many opinions, but there is only one topic I am 100% certain of, and that is my experience.

My first experience with computing was in the late 60's during my high school years. Looking back I see how unusually lucky we were to have a computer in high school. The class had 6 students for two hours a day, and was taught by a man, W. Don Marsh, who was fond of telling us that he had forgotten more about computers than we would ever know. He was a patient man, though it was not unusual to get the "How can you be that stupid?" look, and he always answered. He could have picked any of a variety of valid reasons to "vote us off the island" but chose not to. My entire life might have been different if he had.

I do not mean what follows to sound arrogant or snobby. There have been several occasions during my career that I have been BMOC about a particular topic. I could have have had many rules about how I was approached but in reality it was work to get me to throw you off the island. There is at least one person I can think of that used to ask the most stupid questions about Ethernet, but I answered because they asked and were sincere. Several years later they went on to become a CCIE and were much smarter than I.

If the intent of this site is to be about knowledge, and to be one of the best places on the Internet to get the knowledge, then the teaching style can't be don't ask stupid questions. I am 55 years old and remember when I asked stupid questions, or incomplete questions, or ___________ (fill in your own peeve). I am not alone in not being a very active participant in this family of sites because of the perceived arrogance. The only reason I participate at all is for the challenge of helping others.

Some of the exchange that went on in this thread looked like a social experiment. What happens if you give a few people a lot of power? It looks to me like the power is sometimes abused. Someone(s) said that you could un-close questions by voting to. Honestly, if Jeff, Jon, ... vote for closed how many people would vote otherwise. Even in the cases where they aren't the ones can you look at questions with an un-biased eye once they have been closed?

I am notorious for saying things that sound like facts, when the only fact is that "it" is an opinion. It is just my style and does not mean that I am confused about what "it" is. There have been times throughout this exchange that I wondered if some of you haven't lost sight of the difference.

I apologize if anyone has taken this personally.

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    I have voted more than once to open questions that moderators have closed, or to close questions that moderators have opened. However, I agree with them far more often than not, and it's not because they have diamonds next to their names. That's how they get those diamonds -- people liked what they saw. (With the exception of those who actually run the site, but I don't see them closing questions except on Meta anyway.) – mmyers May 10 '10 at 20:52
  • I understand the intent, and I could allow myself to view the questions based on my self-important value system and agree with you. Why don't we remember the time when we were the ones asking those questions. The nature of this business is precise, factual and controlling. Those virtues are liabilities when it comes to discussing our profession. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 21:02
  • I just picked my 12 year old daughter up from the bus stop. On the way home the King was singing "Why Do Fools Fall In Love". I told her that one day she would want the boys to feel that way about her. She responded negatively and I did not pursue the topic because sometimes you really aren't ready for the truth. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 21:04
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    QED: look around Stack Overflow and tell me what the quality of the questions and answers are. Some discipline is necessary to keep things on topic and the signal high relative to the noise. The site works as well as it does BECAUSE of the very things you are complaining about, this "capricious" vote to close and reopen mechanism. High quality answerers aren't interested in answering poorly asked questions (note that this is not the same as a simple question). If you let too many through.. you'll have a whole lot of askers and nobody else pretty soon. – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 21:32
  • I am just not smart enough, or pure enough, to make those life threatening decisions. In truth, the only thing in 40 years in this business that I do know is that I don't know as much as I think. You might also want to ask yourself the harm caused if ONE question is voted out that shouldn't be. I don't think you are so naive as to believe we all share the same opinion. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 21:50
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    @dbasnett the harm caused by ONE knowledgable answerer being driven out by a flood of bad / sloppy questions (again NOT the same as simple) is far, far greater. Without any doubt whatsoever. I'll happily err on the side of closing questions to protect the real sources of information in any Q&A system -- the knowledgable answerers. – Jeff Atwood May 10 '10 at 22:14
  • That is what happens if you don't weed out those marginal questions? The fooding? Is that fact or opinion. I think VBForums has a good reputation for its niche. I don't see them so flooded that they need to resort to these measures, but let me guess, they aren't that good. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:35
  • You need to take yourself a little less seriously. You talk about this like it is live or die, good v. evil. I was trying to make a constructive criticism. – dbasnett May 10 '10 at 22:37
  • @dbasnett I have strong feelings on the matter, because I am passionate about our mission of improving the internet. I believe in it. It's proven so many times over (see: Yahoo Answers, Answerbag, Askville, Wikianswers, etc) that the open-ended nature of "ask anything, it's OK!" is not the way to improve the internet. You seem like a smart, knowledgable guy, so I'd like you along on the mission beside us. That is, if you choose to accept this mission. If not, this comment self destructs in 3.. 2.. – Jeff Atwood May 11 '10 at 6:24

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