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Looking now at the first page of newest questions on Programmers, 8 questions have been downvoted and 9 have been closed (out of 15 questions). I've noticed that this is a problem that plagues this particular Stack Exchange. It makes the site particularly hard to use.

Has anyone else noticed this? Does this site just have bad members or is the purpose unclear? What can be done to remedy this?

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  • For future reference: Always feel free to raise your concerns on meta, but it would be nice if you also took the time to suggest solutions (even if extremely abstract ones). – yannis Jan 17 '12 at 8:09
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    I would suggest readers of this last comment aren't influenced to help foster a culture in which there is an unspoken rule that users can't raise an issue unless it's accompanied by a solution. – smp7d Jan 17 '12 at 14:39
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In my view there is a disparity between what Programmers actually is, and what people perceive it to be. This is possibly at the root of confusion on StackOverflow when migrating. I've seen SO more as a syntax zone than anything and Programmers for higher level discussions than raw code.

However, that's a pretty wide zone and the impression I get is that there are limits to those discussions, not recognised by users on SO, for example, hence the migrations.

One other point is that I have noticed the large number of closed and what I would consider bad/questions lately. My view is there are two issues here a) new users and b) users who do not have English as a mother language. I'm not sure there's any easy solution to either issue.

  • +1 for pointing out users that don't speak English as a native language. Since this site is more about discussion than syntax, it is much more unforgiving of badly written questions, where on SO you can understand a question because syntax is almost universal – Rachel Jan 27 '12 at 16:56
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Let's see what you can do:

  1. Contribute longer answers. You have a few really short ones.

    This is not a comment on the quality of your answers, only their length. Shorter answers may create the perception that the site is one where you can get quick & casual answers (i.e. a forum).

  2. Contribute on topic questions.

    4 out of 6 of your questions are closed.

  3. Actively participate on Meta.

    This is your first post here, keep'em coming! Every constructive Meta post makes Programmers a better place.

  4. Lurk around the Programmers chat room.

    There are newer users in there asking on how to improve their questions.

  5. How to reconcile guidelines, community opinion and moderation

And some more general tips:

  • If you happen upon an off topic open question, flag it as such immediately.
  • If you happen upon a bad question (open or closed), do your best to improve it. If it's beyond improving, don't be afraid to down vote. That will alert other users, mostly via the review page but also users casually browsing the site, and your down vote may lead to the question getting improved by someone else.

As a resident question killer, I don't think there is a problem. We certainly don't have "bad" users, and I was kind of annoyed when I first read your question. That said, there is a mini plague, but it's not something we can control, at least not directly. Most recent bad questions where migrated (directly or indirectly) from StackOverflow.

Just yesterday I happened upon a question that was somewhat incomprehensible. I voted to close, and left a friendly (?!) comment. The OP responded revealing his frustration that he was down voted across the network. I checked his StackOverflow profile and found out that he had posted the exact same question there. The question was closed, but there where two comments by high-ish rep users suggesting Programmers as a better site for the question.

That would be a case of indirect migration. I left them both angry (but polite, I think) messages, pointing out that their comments lead to the question getting closed again, and that what they thought were helpful comments resulted in the OP getting even more frustrated.

Some of us are battling this mini plague through various means:

  1. Being active on StackOverflow, and hunting down all these friendly suggestions that incorrectly point to Programmers.
  2. Alerting the crowd there for the situation via Meta StackOverflow.

Although at first I though of boycotting Anna Lear's bid on the latest moderation elections on StackOverflow (because I wanted her concentrated here, I don't like sharing), I went on and voted for her in the end just because she would have more direct control over migrations. I did notice the situation getting better, well done Anna.

And all our other mods are doing their best to spam Meta StackOverflow with friendly reminders that Programmers should not be treated as a place where StackOverflow question come to die.

The only Programmers specific problem that leads to bad questions I can think of, is that there are quite a few highly voted old questions that currently wouldn't be on topic. Historically Programmers was supposed to be something of an anti-StackOverflow, and many of the posts of that time survive and are amongst the more popular. Some we close, some we leave as is. There is no point in hunting them down, as time goes by they will become less significant by default.

But in a few cases, users defended their questions, on Meta or in comment threads, providing some of these old questions as similar to their own. Well, that doesn't happen often enough to be concerning.

There are certainly bad days. We noticed before. But I don't think it's a major problem, we still have quite a few more good days than bad ones.

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    Looks at point 1: you're suggesting long answers for the sake of being long. I'm not really sure I agree that this is a good thing. – temptar Jan 17 '12 at 14:03
  • @temptar I'm not sure either, in general, but I'm pretty sure the answers I linked to should be expanded. – yannis Jan 17 '12 at 14:06

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