From what I was seeing overall question quality is going downhill, so on that hunch, Using Stack exchange's Data explorer ran the Following Query:

Select
CAST(year(p.CreationDate) as char(4))+'-'+CAST(DATEPART(wk,p.CreationDate) as char(2)) as week
  ,count(1) as Cnt
  ,avg(score) as Avg
  ,avg(VoteCount) as AvgVoteCount
from Posts p
JOIN (Select postid,count(1) as VoteCount from Votes group by postid) v on v.postid=p.id
where p.CreationDate>dateadd(yy,-1,getdate())
group by 
  year(p.CreationDate) 
  ,DATEPART(wk,p.CreationDate) 
 order by year(p.CreationDate),DATEPART(wk,p.CreationDate)

I then Graphed The Count and Average:

Our Average Question Score is Down a full point over the last year, whats going on?

Count of Posts Average Post Score


Edit: I Updated the SQL and Added Average Vote count..

Average Vote Count


Edit 2: For Thomas SO Results

enter image description here

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Average question score is much more an indicator of the voting behaviour of the users than anything related to quality. –  Mad Scientist Feb 16 '12 at 14:01
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I'm curious as to how we compare to other live sites in this aspect. Particularly Stack Overflow (since that's the other primary software development site). If you have the time, could you run those queries and produce those graphs, too? Otherwise, I might when I get home from work. –  Thomas Owens Feb 16 '12 at 14:16
    
@Thomas See above, So is surprisingly stable –  Morons Feb 16 '12 at 15:13
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IMHO it has become hard to ask good new questions here. I could spam SO all day long with questions about all the nasty details I run into with the tools and libs I use, but finding a simple good question worth asking, not prone to be closed, is a difficult matter on p.se. –  user281377 Feb 16 '12 at 22:05
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@ammoQ I agree... I feel I can no longer ask about problems specific to my situation since they'll probably just be downvoted and closed. I also feel that if I want to ask something on P.SE, I have to generalize my question is such a way that it is often no longer useful for me, or that it will just tell me general knowledge that I already know. –  Rachel Feb 17 '12 at 14:35
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@Rachel: and don't forget, not too general! That can also mean imminent death. I wouldn't be surprised if numbers continue to fall, or if the above doesn't say much, fall drastically sometime in the future, if something drastic isn't done about the rigidity of the question constraints. At very least, I'd expect an SE area on each site for 'any' questions. Instead of closing, they are sent to this section. –  Damien Roche Apr 24 '12 at 18:05
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7 Answers 7

I think we are.

The site scope was changed dramatically from its original proposal, without the consent of the Programmers community, which drove many users away. Since then, strict enforcement of keeping questions on-topic with the new site scope, combined with the fact our site name doesn't match the FAQ has been causing a lot of users to misunderstand what the site is meant for, and to lose interest and stop asking/answering questions.

For example, here's a graph of our new user growth. It remains fairly steady, because many programmers are interested in a site for programmers:

enter image description here

And here's a graph of new questions asked. It is going down hill fairly steadily for a while now, and I don't believe it's because all the good questions have been asked/answered. I think it's instead people being aware of stricter rules, and/or being uncertain about if they should post something for fear of just getting downvoted and closed.

enter image description here

It should be noted that the above graph shows posts which were closed as of 5/10/12 (which is when I noticed I was including answers in my old graph). To view a graph of actual open/close post history, use this query, which was added in May. It should also be noted that some of the larger spikes of posts getting closed can be attributed to the massive cleanup that some users undertook.

enter image description here

Our number of votes is also declining, which is the result of less user participation.

enter image description here

I can't speak for others, but personally I've gotten frustrated with the way our site is going and have kind of given up. I don't think I'm alone either judging by questions on meta, and the disappearance of several formerly-active users.

This site is yours, so you can run it however you want, however I strongly believe that the downward nature of the graphs is caused by a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about the site scope, and the way SE treated the Programmers community when they decided to change the site scope without their consent.

The site was meant to be a site for programmers about programmers, and it has since changed to a site for programmers about software development only. A lot of old active users have lost interest, and a lot of new users don't understand the site scope and ask low quality questions.

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Thanks for the Doom and Gloom answer ;-) Now considering that changing the site name is a political dead-end, do you have any suggestions to improve this and attract new users? –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 15:44
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@maple_shaft You're welcome :) I disagree that it's a dead end - dba.SE already changed their name once and are trying to do it again. But that said, change the scope of the FAQ to stop limiting questions to JUST software development questions and allow questions about programmers as well, since that's what most people think this site is about when they come here. Also, don't be so hasty with your close votes (especially moderators!), particularly when something might land in that magical "All careers" circle –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:53
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I agree about being hesitant to close vote questions especially for these questionable fit ones. If I am unsure I will sometimes flag a moderator to take a look at it rather than vote. We shouldn't be so quick to close things, especially if it is close to that line of what is offtopic. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 16:19
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+1000: Wow! @Rachel - Where have you been? Right on the money! –  Jim G. Feb 16 '12 at 16:57
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@JimG. I've been subdued into giving in and letting people run the site whatever way they want. I usually get negative feedback when I post stuff like this on meta since the majority of meta users don't seem to agree with me, and since it's their site they can do what they want. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 17:22
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On meta it does seem acceptable to downvote opinions that you do not agree with, regardless if you present a logical argument based in factual evidence or not. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 17:29
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@maple_shaft I'm aware of that and do the same. I was just pointing out that the majority of meta users disagree with me, and I think the people who agree with me are no longer interested in P.SE since I rarely see them around anymore. And sadly, if more people vote to show their disagreement then agreement, nothing gets done. Even if I do get positive votes, such as renaming the site or changing the FAQ(16up, 8 down), nothing gets done because nobody bothered to post an answer of support so the top answer is "it doesn't matter" –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 17:35
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@Rachel: Let me be clear - I agree with you! :) –  Jim G. Feb 16 '12 at 18:00
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@JimG. You give me hope :) I wouldn't be this active on meta if I didn't feel that there are a lot of users who agree with me, but who don't have a voice - either because they don't know what to do about it or have just given up already. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 18:05
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+1 you expressed my feelings perfectly. Thanks. –  Péter Török Feb 20 '12 at 10:41
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Notice that while the number of up-votes goes down the number of close votes has risen steadily. I have always maintained that the gap between what is an appropriate StackOVerflow question and what is considered Off_Topic here is pretty small and shrinking all the time. –  James Anderson Apr 11 '12 at 6:03
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The last edit added a link to a question that finally made me understand the extent of the scope change. Since this answer has been getting a lot of views/votes lately, I wanted to add the link to help others understand the scope change too. I don't care what SE does with the site anymore, and only really stick around because I like helping the people who don't understand the site. If you guys ever get around to changing the name/tagline of the site to match the scope, I'll have no reason to hang around. And no, the scope change was not a consensus among the Programmers community. –  Rachel May 10 '12 at 16:27
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As far as I know, the scope change was not motivated or influenced by consensus opinion. –  Jim G. May 10 '12 at 23:44
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Indeed, it seemed to be motivated mainly by the ASCII equivalent raised eyebrow (or maybe hairy eyeball) from Joel meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/a/3414/12230 –  JohnMcG May 11 '12 at 16:10
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Cool graphs and insightful analysis. Let me suggest that it is the nature of a meritocracy to concentrate power rather than to become more inclusive. Will and Ariel Durant write about this in their histories. Thought leaders are all around us, with powerful ideas seeking receptive soil. I would encourage you to not throw up your hands, but to push for some method of welcoming and more satisfactorily initiating new participants. I hope you feel like there has been some improvement since February. –  DeveloperDon Sep 15 '12 at 5:44
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I agree with Rachel... As new sites pop up its takes from this more generic one..

Carrer Questions get Closed

PM Questions get migrated out (PM)

Db Question get migrated (DBA)

Code Questions get migrated (SO)

UI Questions get migrated (UI)

App specific stuff gets Migrated (Superuser)

Whats left?, Not Much.

Has any new site proposal ever been rejected because We already have programmers?

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And this is the heart of the matter... we claim that there is a line drawn in the sand, and it is of the strictest interpretation of the FAQ possible. Except of course that the line isn't straight, it zig-zags a little bit. Example, not all PM questions get migrated to PM. If it is about Agile, an exclusive matter to software developers then it is ontopic on both sites. This is confusing for users but in my mind, LESS confusing than allowing for ambiguity in a particular topic being acceptable in more than one SE site. cont... –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 16:25
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... cont The current MO is that every question should have a clear and single SE site to be asked at and the true goal is more for consolidation of subject matter experts into a single area to handle these questions that are all in one and only one place. The current moderation strategy supports SME's and not new users. A user should think, "This is appropriate for PM, but I might get an answer with a programmers perspective on Programmers." The user should not feel afraid to make the wrong choice and get reprimanded for it. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 16:29
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I'd like to point to this suggestion that was shot down.. meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2104/… –  Morons Feb 16 '12 at 16:32
    
@Morons To be fair, implementing something like that would probably be an issue. I like ChrisF's answer that it's fine to post on both sites (I've done this myself in the past), and I wish other moderators would share that point of view. It seems they'd rather migrate a question to a site they think is a better fit, regardless of if OP is looking for a programmers perspective or not. Which brings us back to the point that this site is supposed to be about software development, yet everyone thinks it's about programmers due to the site name. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 16:41
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@Rachel, Alls i'm sayin' is if a new "Analysis and Design" site pops up.. We're done. I'd also like to point out that none of those other sites listed are doing all that great. –  Morons Feb 16 '12 at 17:01
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@Morons Someone said the smaller branches of SO were created because there were so many questions in those topics on SO that often easy Qs got answered, while more difficult questions got pushed aside. It was a good idea, but I think they got a little carried in separating topics. Often a question can cover more than one topic, and although many users can probably answer questions on more than one SE site, they probably won't like going through multiple sites to find interesting questions, so they tend to stick to a select few. I never visit CodeReview, UX, or PM, although I do visit DB and SO –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 17:29
    
You could always go commit to The Workplace. –  Josh K Feb 16 '12 at 18:33
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@JoshK That doesn't solve anything. Besides, a lot of programmers are not interested in career-related questions unless they relate to a programming career. And even then, I think they'd prefer to have programmers answer those questions, not a generic HR person who will give a politically correct, overly broad answer. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 18:41
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@Rachel This isn't generic HR, it's generic working environment. If you prefer for a programmer to answer a question, then make sure that the question is specific to programming. What kind of chair do you use doesn't apply to programmers differently. –  Josh K Feb 16 '12 at 19:07
    
@Rachel I like ChrisF's answer that it's fine to post on both sites (I've done this myself in the past), and I wish other moderators would share that point of view. Please read the answer again. And please don't quote other people incorrectly. No moderator ever said it's not ok to post on multiple sites if you tailor your questions to fit each site. yet everyone thinks it's about programmers due to the site name. You and I share that opinion. Maybe even a couple of others. A handful of people is not everyone. –  Yannis Rizos Feb 17 '12 at 16:24
    
@YannisRizos Ummm I don't think I quoted anyone. I stated my point of view on something I read, but I didn't try to quote him. I had someone tell me not to cross-post questions a long time ago, and assumed that was the view of all moderators since a lot of them close questions that would better fit on other sites and tell the OP to post on a different site, even if they posted here to get a programmers perspective. –  Rachel Feb 17 '12 at 16:38
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@Rachel "I like ChrisF's answer that it's fine to post on both sites (I've done this myself in the past), and I wish other moderators would share that point of view." That's quoting someone. We all have the exact same point of view. The fact that you failed to read the answer as it was written, not our problem. "to get a programmers perspective" is not what the site is about, those questions will be closed regardless if they are cross posts or not. –  Yannis Rizos Feb 17 '12 at 16:47
    
@YannisRizos I actually did have "providing it fits the site scope" in that line, but was over the character limit and thought people would understand that implicitly. If you copy/paste that comment you'll see there are 0 characters remaining. If I meant it to be a direct quote I would have added quotes and provided the full sentence. –  Rachel Feb 17 '12 at 16:59
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Don't forget migrating algo questions to comp-sci. –  Steve Evers Mar 2 '12 at 0:39
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Its a fact that the number of closures puts off posters, and, it puts people off answering. What is the point of spending ten minutes carefully considering the question, re-wording, correcting your spelling (or not, in my case) only to find the question closed.

Ultimately it puts people of visiting the site.

Programming and related professions (DBAs, Analysts, Systems Architects etc.) are fairly unique, its techie a bit like engineering but we don't have rules engineers have to follow. There is no empirical way to judge a programmers work. Even stuff that plain doesn't work may be good quality programming which was specified poorly.

If we cannot discuss these type of topic here, whats left?

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We currently have 14369 open questions, so I think there's much left to discuss... –  Yannis Rizos Apr 11 '12 at 8:19
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Great point, James. –  Jim G. Apr 11 '12 at 13:28
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+1 because I hate being in the middle of writing an answer, only to get the banner saying that the question is no longer accepting answers because it's closed –  Rachel Apr 13 '12 at 20:07
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+1. I just found the site but people close questions far too aggressively. –  Benjamin Wootton May 2 '12 at 14:43
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It seems to be very easy to close a question, and sometimes closures happens with lightning speed. It is more difficult to partner with a new participant to advise them on revisions that could turn dreadful questions or duplicate questions into something with some value, but ultimately that approach can have real long term benefit. –  DeveloperDon Sep 15 '12 at 5:57
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This is a trend we're seeing on Stack Overflow too.

If the rate of increase in questions is greater than the rate of increase in users so there are less votes per question available.

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See My Edit, The average vote count is only down by .5 –  Morons Feb 16 '12 at 15:01
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I don't think that's true. I ran some queries and our rate of new questions is dropping while our rate of new users is staying about constant. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:15
    
@Rachel - I haven't had chance to check my assumptions out. Interesting if the rate of new questions is dropping. I've just checked the analytics we have access to and the question rate looks to me to be fairly constant. –  ChrisF Feb 16 '12 at 15:17
    
@ChrisF I've posted some graphs showing rates of new users and questions in an answer of my own –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:32
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@Rachel I think that is the more interesting statistic. I usually run through a number of conceptual software development questions in my head in a given day. I can almost always find a question that was previously asked so I have no need to ask the question anymore. I think that the site is starting to slow down because the number of good and unique questions that haven't been asked yet are dropping and the most prevalent kind at this point are new users who didn't bother searching, didn't read the FAQ and/or just want to gripe and complain about how much their boss sucks. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 15:34
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@maple_shaft I disagree. Almost every question I've had about software development has not been found on this site, and I've had to ask the question myself. Although lately I don't bother asking since I figure it might be considered off-topic, so downvoted and closed. For example, I almost didn't ask my question about Mediators vs Observers because I was told in chat it wouldn't be a good fit for the site. Apparently interview questions, managing juniors who work under you, and certain recommendations are also off-topic. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:58
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@Rachel - interview questions, managing juniors are on topic if the problem relates specifically to software development and programmers. If it a question that could apply to any profession the it is off topic. I'm struggling to see where the confusion is here. –  ChrisF Feb 16 '12 at 16:42
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@ChrisF Yes, but those topics are off-topic if the question could be applied to more than just programmers, even if the questioner is asking here to get a programmers perspective on the subject. I disagree with this, and have raised the issue in meta before, but apparently more meta users disagree with me than agree (+7, -9). –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 17:40
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All of the graph results can be explained by the consistent, persistent effort by the community and the moderators to remove bikeshed questions.

I personally think this is a good thing. While the potential audience is smaller, the audience that remains has a higher percentage of experts in the field, and not just people who want to talk about the "best eraser for programmers."

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+1 for paragraph 1. -2 for paragraph 2. –  Jim G. Feb 16 '12 at 16:57
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@JimG. -1 for complaining without explaining. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '12 at 17:44
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@RobertHarvey The way I understood it was that he agrees with the fact the graphs can be explained by the effort the community/moderators have put into cleaning up questions, however he disagrees that this is a good thing. I feel the same way. –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 18:40
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I agree with @Rachel. Yes, "the audience that remains has a higher percentage of experts in the field" - however, this trend may end up with a closed circle of experts who have nothing to ask, thus nothing to answer... :-( –  Péter Török Feb 20 '12 at 10:44
    
@PéterTörök: Nobody said anything about eliminating the non-experts. –  Robert Harvey Feb 21 '12 at 6:06
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@RobertHarvey, well yeah, moderators only eliminate posts, not users. However, in the end it may have the same effect. –  Péter Török Feb 21 '12 at 8:23
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@Peter Torok: It certainly does. For instance, I don't see you around here as much as I used to. That goes for Pierre 303 and Wayne M. too. –  Jim G. May 8 '12 at 23:35
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The moderators eliminate posts, then the user who submitted that posts comes over here and sees it referred to as crap, making the Internet worse, and compared to lawbreakers meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/q/3540/12230. This may not directly get rid of users, but I have trouble thinking of a more effective means of chasing them away. –  JohnMcG May 11 '12 at 16:14
    
Everything is solved by asking better questions. Asking good questions is hard, and a significant percentage of people are apparently unable or unwilling to put in the effort. –  Robert Harvey May 11 '12 at 17:07
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@RobertHarvey Right. So how do you respond to that? This is like saying you solve the education crisis by students studying harder. Great. How are you going to do that? By calling them names? By shutting down their efforts and then talking publically amongst yourselves about how bad their efforts are? How's that working out for you? –  JohnMcG May 11 '12 at 21:01
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Well, not everyone qualifies to go to college, @John. –  Robert Harvey May 11 '12 at 21:06
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clearly, the best eraser for programmers is a magnet... –  Steven A. Lowe May 19 '12 at 0:46
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With the exception of StackOverflow, I find this information promising actually...

The question scores are merely falling in line with the actual average quality of questions in Programmers. There have always been bad questions on Programmers, but up until recently, more active users finally understand the scope of the site and care enough to participate in meeting that vision.

Here is an example of a question that should have been heavily downvoted and closed with impunity. The answers are by far and away even WORSE:

What was the worst experience you've had with a customer/user?

No offense Pierre, but we were all fresh users at one point before we really understood what this place was about.

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To be fair, the FAQ back then encouraged subjective questions that invited others to share their experiences. You can also see it in #4 of The Six Subjective Question Guidelines –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:05
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@Rachel There's a difference between polling people for their experiences and encouraging people to share their experiences as part of an answer. The question maple_shaft linked to is a poll. It's also mindless social fun - it doesn't lead to any problem being solved. –  Thomas Owens Feb 16 '12 at 15:34
    
@ThomasOwens I'm not trying to say it's on topic now, but in the early days of the site that sort of question was common and seen as on-topic –  Rachel Feb 16 '12 at 15:37
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@ThomasOwens I don't know about you but I am not solving the problems of the world 24/7 :) Sometimes you just need to vent or have some mindless social fun to destress and declutter your brain. These questions are important, unfortunately this is just the wrong medium for it. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 15:41
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@maple_shaft However, chat is perfect for this. Unfortuntately, Websense now blocks chat.stackexchange.com as "gaming". (Now, I'm going to go back to solving the world's problems. :P) –  Thomas Owens Feb 16 '12 at 18:05
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@maple_shaft: why? I learnt all I know thanks to my mistakes. I think that question (and answers) are very valuable. The best programmers can learn from their mistakes, and it is perfectly on topic. Programming is not just design & writing code. In fact, programming is much more about human interactions than you think. "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation" –  user2567 Feb 19 '12 at 12:00
    
@ThomasOwens: from the top and chosen answer, I've learned a little more about social engineering (which is probably a weakness for most programmers).. –  jberger Mar 13 '12 at 15:00
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I guess it's all my fault

enter image description here

  • Given that I rarely downvote answers, I think I subtracted 600+ nice shiny points from total questions score.
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You should be commended IMHO. Downvoting is a good thing and should encourage users to ask good, well thought out questions and answers or edit these to where they are good. –  maple_shaft Feb 16 '12 at 14:57
    
Are those all Question Down votes? I think it includes downvotes on answers. –  Morons Feb 16 '12 at 15:17
    
@Morons per checking amount of -1 in my profile reputation tab, I'd say about 30-60 of these account for answer downvotes. To find real data, I tried My Downvotes query at Data Explorer but unfortunately, it doesn't separate Q from A –  gnat Feb 16 '12 at 15:30
    
Your downvote ratio is about ten times higher than mine, although I do downvote questions a lot more than I used to. Most crappy answers just need to be deleted. –  Robert Harvey Feb 16 '12 at 16:07
    
@RobertHarvey I kind of learned to vote questions when hunting for Electorate badge. Currently I rarely leave a question without a vote: it caught my attention and because of that deserves a feedback - up or down, depending on how I perceive it –  gnat Feb 16 '12 at 16:13
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Ah a fellow down voter! I'm at 846 d / 1,376 u... We deserve our own badge... –  Yannis Rizos Feb 16 '12 at 17:57
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@YannisRizos at P.SE I always knew I'm not alone in that pursuit. As for the badge, how would you name it? Garbage collector? –  gnat Feb 16 '12 at 18:53
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