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Per my reading of July 22nd discussion primary focus of the coming changes is to prevent the flood of debugging questions. Both SE Community Manager and our moderators appear to be in agreement about that:

- There are a crazy number of things that should be closed or downvoted or edited or just discouraged, but only a tiny handful reach the sort of volume that you need to announce them to all visitors.

- And the code troubleshooting types are, by far, the worst.

- I'm pretty sure just about every site on the network gets coding questions now and then, but only a few bother mentioning that they're off-topic explicitly anywhere. here, they're a problem, so you focus on that

Explicit mentioning of "not code troubleshooting" in the suggested site tagline also appears to support this vision.

Given above I wonder if we need to somehow change the way how blatant debugging questions are handled, maybe have more active involvement of diamond moderators or maybe ask for system features 1, 2, 3 or something else?


My understanding of the current approach is, it assumes primarily involvement of regular community members which leads to cumbersome and lengthy process.

  • First, a question needs to collect five close votes from 3K users. Per my observations this tends to take few hours or even days. After closure, question hangs on the site for 9 days before it gets auto-deleted. If it manages to get an upvoted or accepted answer prior to closure things get even more complicated because such questions aren't eligible for automatic deletion and can in theory hang in here indefinitely.

Given that planned changes are so much focused on preventing debugging questions our current way looks somewhat worrying.

I hope that the changes will help to educate newcomers against asking for code troubleshooting over here. But statistics seems to suggest that ~20% questions here come from users who simply don't have an option to ask for debugging help at more appropriate site.

This makes me wonder how to handle it when such questions are posted here despite all the effort and guidance.

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    I'm confused why you think that one particular type of question needs special treatment over others. There are some things that would be nice to make the homepage cleaner, but they would be systematic changes with respect to how questions are displayed on the homepage and /questions page and should probably go to Meta Stack Exchange. – Thomas Owens Aug 11 '16 at 13:49
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    @ThomasOwens I tried to explain why it looks like that in the opening quotes of my question, "And the code troubleshooting types are, by far, the worst... they're a problem, so you focus on that" etc. Please feel free to correct if I misread – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 13:53
  • I just don't understand what you're suggesting or trying to discuss. Our hypothesis is that, unless you dig into the Help Center, you get the impression that our community may be one that accepts questions about code debugging and that simply putting a more clear name and tagline in front of people will go a long way in fixing that. If you accept that hypothesis, why are any other changes necessary at all? – Thomas Owens Aug 11 '16 at 13:56
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    @ThomasOwens I tried to explain that in the closing of this question: "...statistics seems to suggest that ~20% questions here come from users who simply don't have an option to ask for debugging help at more appropriate site..." If someone needs a debugging help but can't ask at Stack Overflow, it looks quite likely that they will try their luck here. There is long known "tradition" of attempts to circumvent such bans by posting at inappropriate sites – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 14:00
  • ...this "tradition" seems to be so widespread that SE team had to implement a special feature to handle it, so that questions from banned users can't migrate from other sites – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 14:05
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    I still don't understand. We are changing our name and tagline to make it easier to understand that these questions don't belong here. Beyond that, why does anything need to change in how we handle questions that don't belong here? I don't understand, since the current system works, and should get easier by reducing the people who legitimately don't know that their question doesn't belong here. – Thomas Owens Aug 11 '16 at 14:11
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    I suggest you ask this question again after the site name was changed for a few weeks, assumed you think it is still relevant then. – Doc Brown Aug 11 '16 at 14:12
  • @DocBrown that's a good point and originally I planned to do just that. But then I figured that chances of getting this kind of issue look rather strong (see the reference to stats in the question) and we maybe better have some preliminary discussion instead of waiting and checking if it falls on us or not (I particularly liked how matters of overlapping sites were clarified prior to change) – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 14:19
  • @ThomasOwens wrt whether current system works, my reading of the discussion suggests that some may disagree: "it doesn't. Commenting, guiding, and so on will help. Unfortunately, the bigger problem (code debugging/troubleshooting) is keeping us worn down from helping users with the second problem. I think we get tired of the first and aren't doing what we can to coach on the second". Please feel free to correct if I misread – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 14:25
  • I think you misunderstand what I said. I believe that changing the name and improving the tagline alone will reduce the number of people who think that they can ask things that don't belong here sufficiently to not need any other changes, at least immediately. A rebranding should be a hint to people on Stack Overflow to stop suggesting that people take their questions here, a suggestion to new users as to what our scope is, and so on. The new name and tagline, alone, will reduce the code debugging and troubleshooting questions posted here. – Thomas Owens Aug 11 '16 at 14:28
  • @ThomasOwens that makes good sense, thanks. Do you also expect that rebranding will help cut debugging help questions from users who are banned at Stack Overflow? – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 14:32
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    Maybe I am just being cynical, but I think @gnat has a valid concern here. The distinction between sites is clear to intelligent people, but we are dealing with help vampires. On one hand they are not smart enough to get their CS101 assignment working and could use some on-topic guidance, but on the other hand they probably don't care. Maybe taking a wait-and-see approach is best like Doc said earlier in the comments? – user22815 Aug 12 '16 at 14:23
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    @ThomasOwens: Not to put words in gnat's mouth, but it seems to me like he's asking "When the site actually gets branded with the words "but not code troubleshooting," will the diamond moderators take a more active role in sweeping up the code troubleshooting questions that get asked despite the warnings (there will be some significant number of these still; you and I both know that). In other words, will you Oded more often? – Robert Harvey Aug 12 '16 at 17:15
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    @RobertHarvey Personally, I have been. Ever since Shog strongly suggested faster deletions in The Whiteboard. Previously, I was hesitant to delete questions that would otherwise be Roomba'd, but I am now. I guess I don't see that as a change that is related to the rebranding at all. – Thomas Owens Aug 12 '16 at 17:17
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    "...users who simply don't have an option to ask for debugging help at more appropriate site." Then they should not be given that option here too. Simple as that. – Trilarion Aug 18 '16 at 13:15
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This was discussed quite thoroughly in the comments. For readers not inclined to dive into details below are key takeaways:

Currently there seem to be no need to do anything because it is expected that coming changes (particularly tagline) will suffice to prevent enough of debugging questions (including those from users blocked at SO) to let the rest to be handled efficiently.

This may be reconsidered later if (if) it turns that even after changes we still get too many questions asking for debugging help.

As for diamond moderators more actively deleting debugging questions, this is possibly not even related to site rename because SE Community Manager already recommended them doing this.

- will the diamond moderators take a more active role in sweeping up the code troubleshooting questions...

- Personally, I have been. Ever since Shog strongly suggested faster deletions in The Whiteboard. Previously, I was hesitant to delete questions that would otherwise be Roomba'd, but I am now. I guess I don't see that as a change that is related to the rebranding at all.

  • Note that any guidance that we might have had in the tagline about off-topic questions seems to have disappeared. See the new Tour page for the final text. – Robert Harvey Sep 16 '16 at 15:38
  • @RobertHarvey people simply put their bets on different things now. That could be worrying if we had no plan B, but we have. I for one know what to ask for if it turns out that things didn't get better: proper tagline and interstitial – gnat Sep 16 '16 at 16:01
  • SE has already voiced their disapproval of both of those things, on many occasions. – Robert Harvey Sep 16 '16 at 16:29
  • @RobertHarvey they also voiced disapproval for site name change, on many occasions. And on showing users deleted posts - just to name a few examples showing that their disapproval doesn't always matter – gnat Sep 16 '16 at 16:40

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