What's your favorite "programmer" cartoon, a fabulous geek-fun-pop-culture question with +840 upvotes and 228 answers has been deleted without any remaining trace *.

Quoting Jeff here:

Funny stuff. We do prefer that questions on Stack Overflow stay on the topic of programming, but as Joel and I have discussed before on the podcast, this is somewhat subjective, and it’s OK to err on the side of “fun” every now and then. Not all the time, mind you, but occasional peripherally related digressions that the community enjoys (and upvotes) are perfectly fine.

and again

This question may be more on-topic than it looks, though. One of the major reasons we created Stack Overflow to give every programmer a chance to be recognized by their peers. Recognized for their knowledge, their passion, and their willingness to help their fellow programmers get better at their craft.

Why deleted and not migrated to somewhere else?

* please don't suggest to get it through some crappy internet cache or odata dumps because my furious vengeance.. :)

  • 3
    Actually, I really like them. It's like a fresh out of coding. Too bad it's migrated. – Hoàng Long Dec 29 '10 at 7:10
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    @Hoàng not migrated, deleted! – systempuntoout Dec 29 '10 at 9:06
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    I miss this question dearly. I used it to pull cartoons periodically to include with my release notes email .... – Brian Feb 16 '11 at 13:56
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    Joel Spolsky gave a Google Tech talk and specifically mentioned this question! Watch on youtube I hope it could be rescued by him and live somewhere else. – Peter May 1 '11 at 16:04
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    The thread can be found at stackprinter.com/questions/… – Deebster Jul 23 '12 at 10:45

I disagree that the question should be deleted.

It stands as the perfect example of everything that is wrong with allowing recommendation questions with one item per answer -- exactly the kind of evil SE 2.0 sites are struggling to avoid.

Without a concrete example to point to, our experience may be mistaken for bigot alarmism by newer users.

  • 1
    This is pretty much the only semi-convincing justification I've heard so far. Still, the questions are merely deleted, not permanently erased, and I think that the SO CC ripoff sites are good enough for this particular purpose. – Aarobot Jan 3 '11 at 22:38
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    @Aarobot I don't think that's a good idea, sending people to SE ripoff sites to explain what's wrong with SE. – badp Jan 3 '11 at 22:46
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    I'm ok with it being deleted... as long as the history of it is preserved somewhere. Its just like a collection of Commodore 64 games... sure the platform died before many of todays developers could talk... but for nostalgia alone I'm glad there are units/copies out there that can be viewed and enjoyed (even if just once, and even if just for giggles) – scunliffe Jan 31 '12 at 21:23

Last time I checked, a very high number of answers was a bad thing. The point of a Q&A site is to provide some sort of practical information, and more than 5 or 10 upvoted answers means that either there are no wrong answers (in which case there was never a "question" to begin with) or that the question is too open-ended to have any practical use. Maybe both.

But just to simplify it even more, let's test it against Jeff's Good Subjective criteria:

1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.


2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.


3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.

Not constructive (no hint as to a practical purpose) and not impartial (a "favourite" is simply an opinion). Fail.

4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.

More fail.

5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.

Even more fail.

6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

Massive fail.

Really now, how many questions can we point to on any site that fail on all six points and get to stick around? It was a popular question, but it was also a terrible one. Sorry, but popular is not the opposite of suck.

  • 14
    +1 for "popular is not the opposite of suck", which was all you actually needed to say :P – Andrew Barber Dec 29 '10 at 0:30
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    @Aarobot -1 for the lack of romanticism and love. Saying "popular is not the opposite of suck" in a community where the popularity is judged by votes sounds pretty odd to me. Thanks for the answer anyway. – systempuntoout Dec 29 '10 at 1:53
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    @system: Um, WTF? "...in a community where the popularity is judged by votes?" How else is popularity going to be judged, and what does that have to do with quality or usefulness? And why would you downvote someone for "lack of romanticism and love" and actually admit it? Is this some kind of elaborate satire? – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 2:35
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    flagged for lack of sentimentallity. – Shog9 Dec 29 '10 at 3:31
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    It's not that I don't love cartoons, @Shog, I'm just not in love with them. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 3:59
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    Not quite, @system. I was lamenting the hard-deletion of the question along with the lack of any active archive, which means that nobody can view it, ever. There are still plenty of places where anyone can find these cartoons (see the comments to Pekka's answer for just one, and of course you can easily find the originals on their respective sites - xkcd.org and so on). The boat programming question was an original work and was also an important question in the history of Stack Overflow specifically because it established an important boundary that was previously non-existent. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 18:05
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    Excellent points -- exactly the overall badness of this question is why it should be kept imho :) – badp Dec 29 '10 at 20:13
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    -1 Cartoons are a much better teacher than an endless stream of factual tidbits-- and more fun too – Andomar Jan 21 '11 at 23:53
  • Sure, @Andomar, and what important lessons and skills have you learned from cartoons, hmm? I'd love to hear this story. Moreover, which cartoons in that thread were actually educational or even intended to be? – Aarobot Jan 22 '11 at 0:41
  • The most educational one (for me) is probably stackoverflow.com/questions/84556/… This has done more for me than days of argument – Andomar Jan 22 '11 at 12:14
  • @Andomar: Care to explain exactly (a) what that taught you, (b) how it's actually relevant to programming, and (c) what problem or question it actually solves/answers (given that Stack Overflow is, um, a Q&A site)? – Aarobot Jan 22 '11 at 16:21
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    How can you ask me to explain the learning effect from cartoons in exact terms? I'm a programmer, not a philosophical education Ph.D. :) – Andomar Jan 23 '11 at 0:18
  • @Andomar: So in other words, "I learned... stuff.". I think we understand each other. ;) – Aarobot Jan 23 '11 at 0:43
  • @Aarobot @Andomar Here's one thing I learned. (And if you can't figure out what it is, you suck 'cause you use Java.) Of course, there are far better examples, but this is the one I could come up with within less than 42 seconds. – Mateen Ulhaq Apr 11 '11 at 23:15

Deleted by Jeff. see: Programmers is about to go live, which questions should we migrate?

I agree with this decision, this is not on topic on any of our sites.

Migrating all these outcast questions to outcast.se has no chance of being created by us, think about it, why would we want to drive traffic into a dead end site with no community.

I kind of predicted this kind of stuff would happen. .... Its tricky business, this question really does not belong on SO, and most certainly should not be setting the tone of SO two clicks away from the home page https://stackoverflow.com/questions?sort=votes (where the best programmer joke is hanging out like the mark of Cain).

By having these soft off topic questions on SO we are telling our new users ... its ok, post whatever crap you want on SO, if you are lucky we will give you a bunch of badges for it.

The other option is making "programmers" a dumping ground ... that programmers cartoon question on "programmers" should probably be closed on programmers.

  • there's the same question (with 1/ of the original questions value) on Programmers here; why was not migrated/merged? – systempuntoout Dec 28 '10 at 23:59
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    @waffles: please see the comments on meta.stackexchange.com/questions/73226/…. – VonC Dec 29 '10 at 0:00
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    Actually, an outcast.se site probably would have a community, it just wouldn't be a community that any outsider would ever visit or derive information from. But you can rest assured it would be popular. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 0:18
  • @Aarobot: SE's own little 4chan, a bastion for everyone who just can't get enough. I still think it's inevitable, but... meh. – Shog9 Dec 29 '10 at 0:25
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    also for the record ... I wouldn't mind stripping a few gold badges ... the horror - stackoverflow.com/badges/25?page=24&perpage=60 – waffles Dec 29 '10 at 0:27
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    This comment is just me piling on, saying how much I agree with this decision. – Andrew Barber Dec 29 '10 at 0:28
  • @waffles - there should be some (subjective) trigger that makes that badge an anti-badge :P – Andrew Barber Dec 29 '10 at 0:29
  • @Shog: Maybe somebody should just start another proposal for it. Either it gets through the Area 51 process a second time (and won't be changed, because the serious topics are already on Programmers), or the dev team shows its hand and either says that they don't belong anywhere or that they belong on a specific existing site. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 0:50
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    @waffles honestly, the first time I sorted for votes one year ago I did not think "ok, lets ask a dumb subjective question", instead all I thought was "omg, I found a treasure, this is the greatest geek community ever, the Programmers Eldorado of my dreams". – systempuntoout Dec 29 '10 at 1:32
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    Yeah ok, @system, people are supposed to get that impression from seeing actual helpful answers, not from dumb jokes. The latter is exactly what we don't want. This isn't a little social "geek community", it's a Q&A. The community matters but only in the sense of the community's knowledge, not it's camaraderie. We absolutely do not need that audience on Stack Overflow. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 2:38
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    @waffles: I've got 2 gold badges waiting to be stripped ;) Since those questions are gone (and I fully support the decision to remove them from SO, but not the part where there are just "gone"), I have no problem to see those 2 gold badges go either (and fully disappear, I don't care). stackoverflow.com/questions/238177/worst-ui-youve-ever-used/… and stackoverflow.com/questions/238177/worst-ui-youve-ever-used/… – VonC Dec 29 '10 at 8:15
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    @Aarobot oh and "that audience" is not active anywhere else on Stack Overflow? I don't really understand all this vitriol directed at these questions. If you don't like the example they give to newcomers, then strip them of their upvotes. Of course it's the community's knowledge that matters. But I always found having a very small percentage of non-serious content (don't forget we're talking about several dozen questions out of more than a million) is a perfectly healthy thing, and nothing compared to the thousands of crappy questions that enter the system every day and outrun closing. – Pekka Dec 29 '10 at 8:44
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    @Aarobot meh, that sounds a little bit arrogant to me. Those questions are part of the Stack Overflow history and they surely helped to build the critical mass around it. Deleting that public domain value is a big mistake (imho); shift your focus to the really crappy questions we read everyday and do not damage the system deleting the wrong questions. One recommendation: listen to the podcasts again and again and see the good spirit of Joel and Jeff behind those kind of questions, a small percentage of non-serious questions should not be considered harmful in any way. – systempuntoout Dec 29 '10 at 9:29
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    @system: So your argument is that because they have some dubious and unverified historical significance, they should be allowed to co-exist with new, important, original content? Slavery is part of America's history but you don't see them trumpeting it as one of their greatest and most popular achievements. Throw those questions in some sort of online museum, if you must, but they're not particularly relevant to what Stack Overflow is today. – Aarobot Dec 29 '10 at 18:10
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    @Aarobot Are you serious? – systempuntoout Jan 3 '11 at 23:18

www.outcast.se is actually still available... Soo tempted for a moment :) But not really. I was mistaken. It's not available after all.

As proposed, I'm in favour of an archive for these questions to preserve them somewhere - especially the really creative ones with loads of original content. I'm opposed to creating a community around them, though - there's little point in that. Static pages will do.

I can see, though, that SO isn't going to be running this archive. Does anybody have ideas about a good, free, ad-free long term reliable hosting location that supports static HTML? Didn't Github have something like this?

  • 1
    Get the dump files from dataexchange and put on another place is the way to go. I support this idea. I totally disagree to create a site or keep theses questions on SE network. – Maniero Dec 29 '10 at 1:25
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    Done: weask.us/entry/rsquo-favorite-ldquo-programmer-rdquo-cartoon And many others. – Uphill Luge Dec 29 '10 at 4:29
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    @Hans I'm not even going to dignify that with a reply. :ϸ – Pekka Dec 29 '10 at 11:16
  • Yes, inconvenient comment, I imagine. – Uphill Luge Dec 29 '10 at 16:06
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    @Hans inconvenient? Why? I just find it pointless, as weask.us is a disgusting trash heap and has nothing to do with what I would like to set up. – Pekka Dec 29 '10 at 18:40

Because otherwise it would be migrated to Programmers.SE, and displace The Oatmeal. That would be... a shame?

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    please see the comments on meta.stackexchange.com/questions/73226/…. – VonC Dec 29 '10 at 0:00
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    @VonC: Honestly, I don't care. Presumably the people who voted the hell out of those posts on SO will eventually find P.SE, but if not then it's no great loss. – Shog9 Dec 29 '10 at 0:07
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    I respect the fact that you don't care. I don't get that you are willing to dismiss all the others that do care. I don't dispute the fact those questions don't belong to any current SO/SE sites. I do argue that just making them disappear is not the right solution (even if they have been massively viewed/upvoted for all the wrong reasons). Plus, if they generate their share of traffic, it is an opportunity to be creative, put them in a special place with a bit of context, and suggesting the casual visitor to explore the other SO/SE sites with their legitimate questions. – VonC Dec 29 '10 at 8:06
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    @VonC: if there are a significant number of people who do care, then they'll make it work one way or another - an off-site repository, another "not programming related" SE proposal, etc. – Shog9 Dec 29 '10 at 17:23

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