There has been some minor stir about a user who apparently rage-quit P.SE. This isn't exactly common, but it isn't exactly uncommon either.

I admit to this being a less than idea question itself - I am asking several things at once and I don't believe that there is a single answer to this. However, chat while archived is ephemeral in the minds of its denizens. Blog post on this isn't the answer, and P.SE certainly isn't the right place. A Meta post seems to be the only reasonable equivalent to the watering hole that has some permanence in the minds of people (at least more than chat).

(Related How to prevent “Why is my question being closed?” and User Frustration? - though this is only one part of it).

I believe there are a number of contributing factors to this - the question is what can we do not only as P.SE but also SO and to an extent, the stack exchange network.

This began with a post on Stack Overflow - How do I take my web dev learning to the next level?. There were comments in this that I recall (I might be wrong, if there is issue, I believe a mod can clarify the specifics of this) that were in essence:

  • Career advice should be asked on P.SE -- someone (1)
  • Ok, but why don't you just answer this? -- OP (2)

At this point the question was closed, and the original poster reasked the question on P.SE. Someone got in an answer before it was closed here. (3)

The poster then asked on meta Closed as not constructive?. While he got answers to it, they were not the ones he was looking for and (IMHO) was a bit argumentative in the comments to the answers provided - I was less inclined to help him after he responded with what amounts to "that's what you think."

The question meta was downvoted (4) which lead to an edit, asking why it was downvoted.

Following this, there appears to have a rage-quit from P.SE (his account is still active on SO).


  1. What can we do to help clarify the proper migration criteria to the SO community at large so they don't refer off topic questions to P.SE.
  2. I'm not sure what can be done to help this, but it was a point of raising frustration for the OP.
  3. Again, sometimes people get answers in before the close. This lead to the increased frustration as expressed in the meta question: "The only answer given (likely before it was closed) clearly suggests that the question is constructive." .The desire to help is there, even when we know its off topic for the site. Myself, I admit to answering a question and close voting it.
  4. Meta downvotes are different. However, without going through the various meta faq's, one likely isn't aware of this on their first trip to meta (especially if they haven't lurked). While those familiar with the site are aware of this, it is another point of raising frustration.

On any of these points, what can we do to help people from becoming more frustrated? Or was this just an unfortunate crash of personality and site philosophy that couldn't be averted?

  • 1
    I admit to this being a less than idea question itself Discussions are okay on meta so "less than ideal question" is fine as long as it's not just a rant (e.g. "what can we do about X", not "X sucks amirite")
    – Zelda
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:22
  • 2
    In regards to #1, I've made an attempt many times in the past to change the site name or change the tag line, as I feel our name/description is extremely misleading to users not familiar with our site, particularly when combined with the fact that the original purpose of this site was to be a place for "Not Programming Related" questions. I still believe this is a significant source of the confusion over our site's scope.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:27
  • 4
    @Rachel unforutnately, I believe that career advice on any site, if not off topic, is too localized and requires too much interaction to fit well into the SE format (no two people have the same career advice problem - there are several professions about giving career advice: guidance concealers, consultants, seminars off the top of my head). The workplace doesn't do career advice either, nor does cooking and diy. If P.SE did, we would be the only SE site to my knowledge to allow career advice.
    – user40980
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:34
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    @MichaelT I understand that, and should have clarified I was referring to your 1. bullet point, not your (1) note. I was trying to point out that I think people see a site named "Programmers" and think it's a site they can come get answers from programmers. If the site were called something like Programming, I think we'd get fewer off-topic questions that are looking for non-programming answers from Programmers, and we'd have fewer well-meaning SO users directing users here thinking this is the place to get not-programming-related answers from programmers.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 20:44
  • 11
    This is currently in spec-stage so I don't have lots of details available, but suffice it to say: how we handle closures/question rehab is going to be revisited in the next year, and the methodology of communicating this to the end user is expected to receive a complete makeover.
    – Aarthi
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 21:27
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    would be interesting to try suggestion from this MSO post: "Be a bit more lenient when voting on meta posts by new meta users... it comes as a bit of a shock when their meta questions get 10x more downvotes than anything they've ever gotten before..." I for one hold the (down) vote until I noticed user rage-quit; maybe I should have cast sympathy upvote instead.
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 5:39
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    Can I please add my 5 cents here. I've been a user quite a while on stackoverflow and was quite excited to find P.SE. After answering a few questions on P.SE I decided to ask my own. It was closed down before I could think. Turns out the site is full of people that want to close most of the questions off and not help people get answers. The front page is full of closed questions, and often that have good and interesting answers! It's very very unhelpful and quite disheartening. It's called "programmers" right? @Aarthi the sooner you do that work the better.
    – Rocklan
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 23:21
  • 4
    @LachlanB You asked one question. It was closed, edited and improved and re-opened a day later. The system works.
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 21:01

2 Answers 2

  1. We already removed programmers as a default migration path from SO because they don't know what is on topic, we can't do much more apart from being active in SO and calling anyone one suggesting programmers inappropriately. This is a problem for all sites related to SO not just us, they have a ton of users that only know the name of a site thinking they are helping when they aren't.
  2. there is no discussion point.
  3. getting answers doesn't mean that the question is acceptable. The way rep and badges work there is incentive to answer bad questions even when you know they are bad. Stack exchange is a complicated place, there are many "rules" that are vaguely defined or hidden in meta posts. The only way to help users here is to get them to actually read before posting which is an age old problem.
  4. Meta is a different place, it has its own FAQ explaining those differences. People don't read the FAQ's though and just get angry because they don't understand. There isn't anything we can do other than try to get them to read the FAQ.

The Problem we have is there are a large group of user that walk past the No Shirt No Service sign and then complain when they get no service without wearing a shirt. We can't solve this problem for them, we either lower our standards or have a group of angry users because they can't read.

  • 6
    I would disagree that they "walk past the No Shirt No Service sign" and are just "angry users that can't read". I'd say it's more like we have a sign containing a very long-winded explanation that ultimately boils down to "no shirt no service", and we hide it in a dark corner that few people are likely to see, then complain about all the shirtless people who come in asking for service.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 15:49
  • @Rachel we have popups for first time askers that point them to the FAQ and how to ask questions. I believe there is also a banner that appears for new visitors that links to the FAQ.
    – Ryathal
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 15:53
  • I realize that, but there are two problems with this: the first is that the FAQ is too long and confusing. There are multiple answers on my question here from new users that found the FAQ confusing, and every answer here also points out that the FAQ isn't really complete and can be confusing or ambiguous. A popup that interrupts users trying to ask a question by telling them to go read a huge wall of text is likely to just be dismissed.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 16:05
  • And second, banners and the right sidebar area is usually used for advertisements, so its very easy to let your eyes slide over that area and only focus on the "content" area of the web page.
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 16:06
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    If it helps, we're working on revising the FAQ as well, @Rachel. That said, a FAQ will never be complete - by definition, it's an attempt to address the most frequent problems, and we're definitely aiming to keep it that way. That said, if you have any specific suggestions for how it could be improved (either the site-agnostic parts, or Programmers' massively overwrought first section), go ahead and post them here.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 21:48
  • FWIW, I think the new "About" section is a major improvement introducing newcomers to SE. Possibly the popups don't really direct people there, though - it's worth posting the link to users who seem to be at sea.
    – Standback
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 10:20
  • @Shog9 That's good to know. I can think of many meta proposals off the top of my head, such as Highlight the difference between P.SE and SO at the top of the FAQ, add a specific bullet point about broad recommendations, be clear at the very start that P.SE is about the software development process, and perhaps add a "What makes a good Question" section as outlined here
    – Rachel
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 12:57
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    What I don't get is WHY this site is so closed down in scope. There are so many things that a professional programmer can get truly good advice on from other professional programmers, advice no one other than a programmer could give, and that is what this site used to be. It seems a few people decided this allowed too many "bad" questions, and redefined the entire site without asking the community at large, and now questions get closed within seconds more often than they get answered. That cannot be purely a result of users walking past the "no shirt no service" sign. Something is wrong.
    – Steel
    Commented Mar 3, 2013 at 23:50
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    @Rythh The reason why is a bit more complex, The powers that be at Stack Exchange changed the sites rules and asked the moderators to enforce them. There was an ugly period of fighting between moderators and high rep users who didn't like the change, but most either gave up and converted or left. This site has had the rules it has no for years now at this point and problems with new users are problems of not RTFM.
    – Ryathal
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 13:15
  • Strange. I never had to read a FAQ to successfully navigate a gas station before. Maybe gas stations are on to something? Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 13:50

I want to chime in on this with a response as a recent migrant from SO proper who ran into this exact issue. I'll reference my meta discussion, I think it had a lot of good responses and definitely helped me:

How to better fit the "on-topic" format

At least after opening a topic on meta to try and clarify what I was doing wrong, I gained some constructive insight in how to word things to better fit PSE and hopefully prevent early closing on my questions. I think a lot of the problem stems in the perception that SO proper is the "technical" site, where posting code or confronting compiler errors is to be expected, whereas PSE is perceived as the "catch-all" alternative.

What I think is hard to translate into moderation here is that it's easy for first time users to get this impression even if they read the FAQ. This is because ultimately we must admit that the application of the "on-topic" section of our FAQ is going to be assessed subjectively the first time the user posts. Unless they read 10-30 previous questions that have been closed, they aren't going to establish a base-use case for how the moderation regarding staying on-topic is applied (the Really-Existing Moderation, to borrow the psychoanalytic term)

There is no denying that having your first question abruptly closed is a huge buzzkill in terms of entering a new community. I think it is to be avoided as much as possible... new users should be encouraged to reword their cases into a something less subjective. There are going to be hopeless questions, of course, but the ones that show a little promise could be worked into the format, especially if they skirt that "specific to programmers" line. That isn't always possible in the sometimes small frame of time they get hit with the moderator nerfbat.

What I would propose as a potentially constructive practice would be giving some exception to questions that have been upvoted by other users. There's no reason a question that has received 3-4 upvotes early that is "arguably" a fit for the meta should be closed within the first 30 minutes before any potential responses or ideas on potential revisions could be given. Because of the way posts are flagged, there's a pretty quick "pile on" effect once a question is flagged for close. That does make it feel, qualitatively, that moderation is a bit aggressive here on PSE.

Just my two cents.

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