Suffering on Stack Overflow
April Wensel
3.4K37

Brilliant article. After the subsequent “Stack Overflow isn’t very welcoming” blog post over on the Stack Overflow blog, there’s been a lot of outrage on meta, and people burying their heads in the sand. Looking at the votes and the sentiments expressed over on meta, the community not only seems to be unwilling to acknowledge the flaws of the general community attitude, they seem completely aloof about the whole thing, repeatedly insisting that nothing is wrong.

I have aired my grievances about this on meta several times (and have been down voted to oblivion each time), I’ve tried to remind people that we are here to help people, asking the community not to lose sight of that. I was told that we are not here to help people, we are merely here to “generate good question answer pairs”. It seems that helping people is an unintended side effect as far as the community sees it. This attitude saddens me greatly.

I believe that is one of the biggest problems holding the site back right now. The site needs a paradigm shift towards helping people as their first and foremost goal. If they follow that philosophy, and bake it into their core values, people will start going the extra mile to help the asker, instead of the current approach of “berate in comments and close question first”.

I tend gravitate towards questions that have been asked by novice programmers who need a little extra help, because they clearly don’t fully understand their problem. I’ve been left increasingly frustrated by these questions being closed whilst I’m partway through typing up an answer. This means my thoughtfully crafted answer, sometimes including tested code, is now useless. The site won’t let me submit it, because the question is now closed. This has happened to me at least 6 times. Due to all the wasted effort, I just don’t bother any more. I’ve wasted so much effort trying to help people on a site that is determined to ignore beginner questions because they’re “not valuable”.

To the SO community: I don’t give a damn if an answer is valuable to 1 person or 100, I only care that I’ve helped someone get past their problem today. So should you.